State preps for next round of water tests

Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

More public schools and daycare centers will be able to test water from faucets and drinking fountains for lead and copper in the next round of of a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection program.

Known as the Lead in School Drinking Water Assistance Program, the voluntary program will give the testing opportunity to between 100 and 200 more school buildings.

In the first year, more than 800 school facilities were tested, with 72 percent of school buildings exceeding federal “action levels” — 15 parts per billion for lead and 1.3 parts per million for copper — during “first draw” water samples. Once the results were in, schools were able to take corrective action by replacing fixtures and taking out of service.

Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement that continuing the program ensures all children have a safe and healthy learning environment when they are at school.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Treasurer (Deborah) Goldberg and school districts across the commonwealth to test several more facilities this year and educate officials on ways to address any elevated levels,” Baker said.

The results in Amherst are now the subject of a federal lawsuit from a Shutesbury resident who argues that the water in the public schools has dangerously high levels of lead. without merit and safe for studenrs and staff.

Several local cities and towns opted against participating in the first year, including Northampton, Hadley, Hatfield and South Hadley, all of which did similar testing on their own.

The testing program was funded last year with $2.75 million from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. About $600,000 remains to provide testing for additinal schools.

Edcuation Secreayy James Peyser said in a statement that he hopes more schools will take advantage of the Lead in School Drinking Water Assistance Program to test their water taps.

“It is a good precaution to ensure children are not exposed to elevated lead levels, particularly in some of the state’s older school buildings,” Peyser said.

A lab at the University of Massachusetts will again be providing technical assistance to all school systems participating in the program.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.