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Quincy finds unacceptable lead levels at 8 schools

A technician collected samples from a drinking fountain for lead-level testing.
A technician collected samples from a drinking fountain for lead-level testing.(AP)

Quincy Public Schools personnel are putting up signs telling students not to drink the water at certain handwashing sinks and are shutting off some bubblers after testing revealed lead levels above the state’s acceptable limit in eight schools.

The city is testing for lead and copper levels at every water source in all 20 of its school buildings, and results for half of the schools were returned this week.

Eight schools were found to have handwashing sinks with elevated lead levels, and one sink was found to have a high level of copper. Lead and copper are not absorbed through the skin, and the sinks have not been turned off, though they have been labeled so students know not to drink the water, city officials said.

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Lead levels requiring action were found at eight sinks at Beechwood Knoll Elementary School, 11 at Bernazzani Elementary School, five at Montclair Elementary School, one at Parker Elementary School, seven at Wollaston Elementary School, three at Atlantic Middle School, two at Broad Meadows Middle School, and five at Sterling Middle School.

Only two schools, Della Chiesa Early Childhood Center and Atherton Hough, were found to have no elevated lead at any fixture.

Elevated lead levels were found at four bubblers, one of which, at Parker, was functional. One bubbler at Atlantic and two at Bernazzani were not working but dripped water.

Those four bubblers were shut off and will be repaired or replaced, the city said. There are an adequate number of other functional bubblers for students, officials said.

Bernazzani parent Joanne Petrongolo said she is hoping for more information from the district, such as whether officials think parents should have their children tested for lead.

“I would like to know more -- which bubblers, which sinks?” she said.

The city is not recommending additional lead testing for students, said Christopher Walker, director of policy and information for Mayor Thomas Koch’s office.

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The city’s consultant on the testing project, Suzanne Condon, a retired associate commissioner for the state Department of Public Health, said levels at which the city must act are purposefully set low, and are not a cause of immediate concern. Drinking water “action” levels are based on whether there is chronic long-term exposure, she said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection requires school districts to test two water samples from two schools annually, but this fall Quincy decided to test all of its schools. Results for the other 10 schools are expected in the next several weeks.


Jill Terreri Ramos can be reached at jill.ramos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jillterreri.