The ban on drinking the water at West Gardiner’s elementary school is being lifted, a little more than a week after it was put in place.

Officials at School Administrative District 11, based in Gardiner, had banned using the water for drinking and cooking when an elevated level of arsenic was found in the water at Helen Thompson Elementary School as a result of routine testing.

Jon Stonier, director of operations and maintenance at School Administrative District 11, said he received notification Wednesday afternoon that a subsequent water test showed that arsenic level in the water was 0.0001 milligrams per liter, well within accepted standards.

In Maine, about 10 percent of wells have water that’s considered high in arsenic. People who drink water that’s high in arsenic for many years have been found to be more likely to get cancer.

Stonier said the school district installed a water treatment system about 15 years ago at the Spears Corner Road school, when federal guidelines for the acceptable amount of arsenic in water was lowered.

“The level used to be quite a bit higher,” he said.

Water at Helen Thompson Elementary has been tested annually. The most recent test was performed during the April school vacation. When the results came back, the school was provided with bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Stonier said because of that higher result, water testing will take place quarterly until the test results stay within recommended limits as required by the state.

“If we get reduced back to testing annually, I am going to recommend we go twice a year,” he said.

Water is treated at the school by running it through tanks that contain a man-made substance that looks like beads. It attracts arsenic and draws it out of the water, Stonier said, and it has to be replaced every three or four years. Two tanks are needed to treat the school’s water, but the district has installed four tanks at the school.

A letter sent home with students on April 24 alerted parents to the problem.

Stonier said he received a phone call and three or four emails.

“Parents know we have a system in place,” he said.

Helen Thompson Elementary is across the street from the West Gardiner Town Office. Town Selectman Gregory Couture said the water at the Town Office is tested periodically, but it’s not treated. The town staff generally brings coffee or water from home, he said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ