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More fountains at Newton school found with high lead levels

Additional testing at Burr Elementary School in Newton has found high lead levels at five out of seven drinking fountains, according to a letter sent to families Wednesday from Principal Mindy Johal.

Samples taken directly from pipes leading to the fountains also found lead levels exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency standard for safe drinking water, the letter said.

“These latest results did not pinpoint the source of the problem and therefore, further testing will be required,” the letter stated. “Please know that the school is working with city officials to remedy this issue as quickly as possible.”

The new round of tests were done after water from one fountain at the school came back with a level exceeding the EPA’s standard during tests performed throughout the school system in April. All Burr fountains were immediately turned off after the results were received on May 17.

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Burr is the only school where lead has been found in the water.

A community meeting is scheduled for June 13, at 7:30 p.m., at which city, building, school, and health officials will be available to answer questions. In addition, parents can contact Jahal or the city’s Health Department at 617-796-1420. Additional information can also be found on the city’s website at www.newtonma.gov/drinkingwater.

Bottled water will continue to be provided to all students, staff, and visitors at Burr through the end of the school year, and parents should remind children to drink only bottled water or water brought from home while at school.

A chart included with Johal’s letter shows high levels of lead in the water when first flowing out of the tested fountains, with the figures dropping after being flushed.

Of the seven water fountains tested at Burr, five exceeded the EPA’s standard of 15 parts per billion. The highest concentrations were 218 and 120 parts per billion at two fountains, while results at the other three fountains ranged from 16 to 22. All fell below the standard after being flushed for 10 minutes.

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Water drawn from the pipes themselves tested at between 261 and 7,600 parts per billion, according to the chart, falling to between 1 and 18 parts per billion after being flushed for two minutes.


Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.