Sheldon Berman, Superintendent
36R Bartlet St.
Andover, MA 01810
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017
Contact: John Guilfoil
Andover Schools Making Plumbing Fixture Changes After Voluntary Water Testing
No Elevated Lead Levels Found in Any Active Water Fixtures in Schools
ANDOVER — Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Berman reports that the Andover Public Schools are removing several outdated and broken water fixtures from two school buildings after elevated levels of lead were found in broken fixtures at the West Elementary School and elevated levels of copper were found in one fixture at the Shawsheen Preschool.
In 2004/2005 Andover Municipal Services Department tested every water fixture at all schools for levels of lead and copper—two substances that can have a negative impact on health if ingested or absorbed in significant quantities over a period of time. All fixtures that exceeded allowable levels were repaired, replaced, or removed. Since that time, the Municipal Services Department has periodically tested water fixtures for lead and copper. Andover Public Schools welcomes this testing because it helps to guarantee the health and safety of students, staff and visitors.
The most recent water samples were collected in September and November 2016 with the final results reported in December. Random samples were taken at every school. Nearly all of the samples from all of the sites met the established safety standards. However, two sites were flagged as needing corrective action:
- Higher than allowable levels of lead and copper were found at West Elementary School. Out of 27 samples tested, five exceeded the Massachusetts Action Level for lead and two exceeded the Action Level for Copper. All affected samples were taken from broken fixtures that were not in service.
- Higher than allowable levels of copper were found in one drinking fountain at the Shawsheen Preschool, which had previously tested below the action level. A total of six sites were tested, and the other five had no issues. None of the six tested sites at Shawsheen showed elevated levels of lead.
The high levels of lead and copper are not coming from the town’s water supply, but rather they are directly correlated to the age and lack of use of the fixtures themselves. The schools also do not have any lead pipes.
“We are exceedingly grateful that the testing process brought the contaminated fixtures to our attention,” Superintendent Berman said. “Since receiving the test results, we have been in close contact with the appropriate persons in the Town’s Department of Municipal Services to ensure that everyone is in the loop and to coordinate the most effective response.”
The school department does not believe that there is any risk to the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. All faulty fixtures either have been or are in the process of being permanently removed and the pipes capped.
The Andover Public Schools are notifying all families and staff about the tests results via Connect5 and through a news release to the media, which is also being posted to the town and school department websites.
Superintendent Berman will also give a report of this matter to the School Committee during the February 15th meeting. All citizens are welcome to attend this meeting in person and are encouraged to view it on Channel 99 if you have Comcast service or Channel 43 if you have Verizon. A representative from Municipal Services and Public Health will be available to answer any questions or respond to any concerns from the public or the school committee.
Finally, the Andover Public Schools will continue regular water testing at all school buildings and will submit reports to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. If any issues are found, follow-up work will be performed.
Exposure to lead is a concern because lead is a toxic metal that has a range of adverse health effects primarily in young children under the age of 6 if they drink the water. Hand washing does not expose the body to the dangers of lead.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, occasionally drinking water with elevated copper levels does not mean a person will suffer health effects, but consuming levels of copper above the Action Level may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Some infants and children, people with liver disease, and people with Wilson’s disease have trouble eliminating copper from their bodies and are more likely to experience more serious health effects, such as kidney and liver damage.
To help answer questions about these tests, the school department is included fact sheets on lead levels and copper levels in drinking water, with information from the Department of Environmental Protection.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, they may also call Superintendent Berman’s Office at 978-247-7010.