FAIRFIELD — Officials with Maine School Administrative District 49 are working to replace some sinks and drinking fountains at district schools after recent testing found levels of lead in the water that are above the acceptable amount established by state health officials.

MSAD 49 administrators in recent weeks have provided results on the district website of testing done on all water fixtures in district schools. Several fixtures at different schools were found to have higher levels of lead, prompting officials to take temporary measures while working to replace the fixtures and retest the water.

The district tested 225 fixtures in all schools and 52, or roughly 23%, were found to have lead levels over 4 ppb, or parts per billion. Of those 52, 14 had levels over 15 ppb.

Several years ago Maine set the acceptable standard for lead in drinking water at 4 ppb, lower than the federal standard of 15 ppb. Ingesting lead can affect brain development, particularly in children younger than 6 years old, but the impact depends on how much is consumed and for how long.

The test results varied across the district — no one school had consistently high levels. Albion Elementary School had 16 out of 26 fixtures with levels over 4 ppb, but none of them were over 15 ppb. The highest level found there was 10 ppb in a bathroom sink.

Fairfield Primary School — which is in such poor condition that the state has placed it at the top of a school priority list for replacement — had no fixtures above the recommended level.


Tests of 27 water fixtures at Lawrence Junior High School revealed lead levels of more than 4 ppb in 6 of them, and two of those were more than 15 ppb. But a drinking fountain in the performing arts center was recorded as having 122 ppb.

The highest level of lead was found at Clinton Elementary School, where one of the drinking fountains in the lower wing was found to have 146 ppb.

The testing is part of a state program to monitor the water used by students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The district worked with A & L Laboratory of Auburn to do the testing.

The district is taking steps to address those places where elevated levels were found, Superintendent Roberta Hersom said in an email. Any fixture found to have levels over 4 ppb will be taken out of use. Water to the fixture will be shut off when possible, signs will be hung not to use it and bottled water will be provided.

It is not clear if the lead is coming from the fixtures — the drinking fountains or sinks themselves — or if it’s from pipes within the school, but most of the time it is the fixtures, Hersom said. Maintenance workers will start by replacing the fixtures and then retesting the sites. If the location continues to test for high levels, the district will reevaluate.

“We do not yet know for sure when the fixture or piping is the problem, even though the majority of the time the fixture is the issue,” Hersom said. “That is why we are replacing any fixture that did not pass. Once we complete all of the retesting that is required, we will get a better understanding of where the problem is coming from.”

All of the fixtures that tested more than 4 ppb at Albion Elementary School have been replaced, Hersom said, as those were the first results to come in, and the district is waiting on retesting kits from A & L Laboratory.

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