Lead levels shut down Amherst Regional Middle School water taps 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

AMHERST — Water taps at Amherst Regional Middle School were shut down recently after test results revealed samples taken from 10 faucets and bubblers contained elevated levels of lead and have been removed from service.

The results from the middle school come from a voluntary state program calling for increased water testing that aims to allow officials to identify and remove plumbing fixtures that may be leaching lead or copper into drinking water. All six other schools in the Amherst-Pelham Regional School district were also tested and problem fixtures were removed.

On Sept. 9, 43 fixtures at the middle school were tested for lead and copper levels. Of the “first-draw” water samples, 11 bubblers and 12 faucets tested for lead at levels above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion, acting Superintendent Michael Morris wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to the school community.

First draw means the taps had not been flushed prior to testing, and water had been sitting in pipes overnight for six to 12 hours.

Samples were also taken from all 43 fixtures after the water had been left to run for 30 seconds, per protocol. Of these “flush” samples, seven bubblers and three faucets tested at lead levels above the federal action level, according to Morris.

None of the flush or first-draw samples tested above the action level for copper.

The fixtures that produced high first-draw samples will continue to be flushed in the morning prior to use for drinking, based on state Department of Environmental Protection guidelines.

The fixtures that produced high flush samples — bubblers near rooms C4, C25, in the Family Center, near the first-floor elevator, in the hallway near the old wood shop, two in the pool area and three in the gymnasium, and faucets in room C28, the Family Center and the town Leisure Services and Supplemental Education break room — are being taken out of service until repairs are made.

Officials believe that the water itself or the pipes are not the source of the lead contamination at any of the schools in Amherst or Pelham. Lead often enters the water supply through old water mains, pipes, fixtures or soldering manufactured before the mid-1980s, according to water-quality experts.

Town and school officials are investigating the source of the lead.

School officials have been flushing all fixtures in each of the district’s schools pending the receipt of the test results. Fixtures that did not yield problematic first-draw results will no longer be flushed, Morris wrote.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettnet.com.