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Unsafe lead levels found in two more city schools

At Latin Academy, water fountains were found to have high levels of lead.BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF/File

Unsafe lead levels were found in water fountains at two additional Boston public schools, bringing the total count of affected buildings to four since Sunday, officials said.

The Boston Public Schools said in an e-mailed statement Monday that Boston Latin Academy and the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester were among schools “determined to have one or more water fountains that exceeded the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s action level of 15 parts per billion.”

As a result, the statement said, three fountains at Latin Academy and one at the Murphy School were shut off, and student access to bottled water has increased.


The news came after the School Department confirmed Sunday that three fountains at Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester and one fountain at Rafael Hernandez K-8 School in Roxbury tested above the state’s recommended lead limit of 15 parts per billion.

Four fountains were shut off at the Kenny School and one was deactivated at the Hernandez School.

The four affected schools were among a group of 38 in the city that were recently tested because they have water fountains available for public use.

The effort gained renewed urgency in the wake of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., where city water from some sources contained lead at hundreds of times what is considered safe for drinking.

At Latin Academy, one fountain had 16 parts per billion before it was flushed for 30 seconds, and it then had 40 parts per billion, according to the BPS statement. Another fountain had 82 parts per billion pre-flush and 26 parts post-flush, while a third went from 25 parts per billion to about seven parts after the flushing process, the statement said.

Levels at the Murphy School showed 16 parts per billion in one fountain pre-flush and 5.9 afterward, BPS said.


John Sullivan, chief engineer of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, said higher levels are showing in some fountains in part because the water has “been sitting there a long time in contact with the brass in the fountain.”

“We think we can take care of that with a [replacement] unit,” Sullivan said.

In its statement, the BPS called the health and safety of students and faculty a “top priority.”

“Mayor [Martin J.] Walsh and Superintendent Tommy Chang have decided to take proactive measures in testing all BPS facilities — exceeding the amount of required testing as mandated by state and federal agencies,” the statement said.

School officials continued, “Recently, the district launched a plan to begin restoring water fountains in schools across the district, and is taking all necessary steps to make sure that any new water fountains made available to the public meet acceptable state and federal standards.”

Heshan Berents-Weeramuni, a co-chair of the Citywide Parent Council and the father of a Latin Academy student, said Monday that he was “quite concerned” by reports of elevated lead levels at his daughter’s school.

“I think it’s a legacy, unfortunately, of how old our buildings are in many ways,” he said. “I just want to make sure that BPS has followed the right protocol and has acted quickly and effectively.”

Nestor Ramos of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.