Clinton Elementary School has shut off its drinking fountains and switched to bottled water for drinking and cooking after tests revealed levels of lead and copper in the water above the federal limit for schools in two areas of the building.

A sample taken at the main entrance of the school revealed a lead level of 150 parts per billion in the water, according to results the school received on Monday, Nov. 14. Action must be taken when more than 10 percent of samples show a water supply’s lead level is above 15 ppb for residential areas and 20 ppb for schools, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The school also tested for copper and found one sample taken at a fountain to be just above the EPA limit for copper concentration of 1.3 parts per million at 1.5 ppm.

All other samples taken within the school were within EPA guidelines.

Lead is most dangerous to children, as it can cause developmental and behavioral delays, and high levels of copper can cause harmful symptoms like nausea and irritation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The school initiated its own testing with the help of A. E. Hodsdon, a Waterville engineering firm, after abnormally high levels of lead were found in Benton Elementary School.

School Administrative District 49, which includes the Clinton and Benton schools as well as Fairfield and Albion, tested all its schools after the high Benton results and plans to conduct annual testing at each school from now on, school superintendent Dean Baker said. No other schools in the district have measured results higher than the federal limit.

Baker said they are replacing the fountain that had a higher concentration of copper at Clinton Elementary School, as well as all other fixtures and connector pipes that could possibly contribute to higher levels of lead or copper in water. School staff also are now going to “flush” the pipes, or run water in the fixtures, each morning, according to a letter sent home to parents on Nov. 14. Flushing the system drains out water that was sitting in the pipes overnight, possibly getting contaminated.

Baker said he expects all fixture changes and retesting will be completed by Nov. 25, and the school should be able to return to normal and turn on drinking water by Nov. 28.

In the meantime, the school is supplying bottled water for drinking and cooking until further tests confirm the water is within EPA limits for both lead and copper.

This comes a few weeks after testing at three sites in Benton Elementary School found abnormally high lead levels of 57 parts per billion, 78 ppb and 670 ppb. The Kennebec Water District had offered lead testing to area schools as a “goodwill gesture” following national reports of dangerous lead levels in water in cities like Flint, Michigan.

The school turned off drinking water and provided students with bottled water as it changed out all fixtures in the building. The water district also replaced a water meter in the school’s mechanical room with a newer, lead-free version.

Baker said the fixture replacements at Benton Elementary should be finished by the end of next week, at which point another round of testing will be conducted. The school has continued handing out bottled water and anticipates doing so next week as well.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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