WILMINGTON, MA — The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recommends cities and towns test for lead and copper in its school drinking water sources every three years.
The Town of Wilmington, however, has taken a more proactive approach. Its Public Buildings Department now conducts such tests on an annual basis.
Last year, the Town received a state grant that provides technical assistance with laboratory analysis to assess any lead and copper found in drinking water at any Wilmington school.
This year’s testing was recently completed at all eight Wilmington schools. While no actionable elevated levels of copper were found in any school’s drinking water, actionable elevated levels of lead were found in TWELVE fixtures across FOUR schools.
The location of each fixture is as follows:
- Boutwell Early Childhood Center — Kitchen Sink on the Back Wall
- Shawsheen Elementary — Kitchen Sink at Center Island
- Shawsheen Elementary — Kitchen Sink on the Back Wall (right)
- North Intermediate — Water Cooler near Kitchen
- North Intermediate — Kitchen Sink on the Back Wall (left)
- West Intermediate — Sink in Nurse’s Office
- West Intermediate — Sink in Room 112 at Hallway Wall
- West Intermediate — Sink in Room 112 on the Back Wall (left)
- West Intermediate — Sink in Room 112 on the Back Wall (center)
- West Intermediate — Sink in Room 112 on the Back Wall (near window)
- West Intermediate — Gym Water Cooler
- West Intermediate — Sink in Band Room
All fixtures checked out at the Wildwood Early Childhood Center, Woburn Street School, Middle School and High School.
The Town has already removed from service the 12 fixtures with lead levels that exceed the EPA and MassDEP’s action level. The Town is in the process of re-testing the fixtures in question. If initial test results are confirmed, fixtures will be replaced. The Town will continue to follow the required MassDEP sampling protocols for testing lead and copper, but will test annually, rather than the MassDEP-recommended once every three years.
If the town had followed the state recommendations, the elevated lead levels in these fixtures would not have been tested or identified and another two years.
“An action level exceedance is not a violation of any law or regulation,” explains a town memo on the matter. “It does, however, require that the town work to mitigate the effects including regular monitoring, water treatment, public education, or replacement of plumbing and fixtures.”
“Lead and cooper enters drinking water mainly from corrosion of lead and copper containing plumbing materials, most notably the solder used in plumbing, NOT from the public water supply itself,” clarifies the memo. “The Department of Public Works is required to test the drinking water supply and has been doing so in compliance with EPA and MassDEP regulations since 1992.”
If parents have questions about these findings, they can contact Public Buildings Superintendent George Hooper at 978-658-3017; Public Works Business & Utilities Manager Joseph Lobao at 978-658-4711; or Interim School Superintendent Paul Ruggiero at 978-694-6000.
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