The Kennebec Water District is collecting three more sets of water samples at Benton Elementary School to determine the source of high lead levels discovered in tests last week.

On Wednesday, the school shut off its water fountains, began replacing its water fixtures and instructed students to drink only bottled water from bubblers at the school.

The Environmental Protection Agency says requires mitigation when more than 10 percent of samples find lead levels above 15 parts per billion for residential areas and 20 ppb for schools.

The latest tests by the Kennebec Water Districtaim to determine whether the source of the contamination is inside or outside the school. Test results are expected Monday, general manager Jeff LaCasse said.

In samples taken Oct. 14, the water district found that three sites at Benton Elementary had lead levels well above federal standards.

The results showed 57 parts per billion at a faucet in a first-floor classroom, 78 ppb at a faucet in a second-floor classroom and 670 ppb at a faucet near the cafeteria.


LaCasse said he was surprised at the results, the highest of which was more than 30 times the allowable level.

Benton Elementary sent home letters to parents Wednesday and Thursday explaining that students are not being allowed to drink water from faucets or fountains and that the kitchen is using bottled water for cooking. Thursday’s letter also said that the school is working with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the next steps it should take.

The water district last tested the Benton area in August 2015 and found lead levels to be below federal standards, he said.

LeCasse said it’s less likely that the lead is coming from the public water system. The most likely sources are older water fixtures and pipes connected with lead soldering, which was banned in the 1990s.


Superintendent Dean Baker said the district plans to test all schools annually. “My concern now is what we do from here,” he said.


Benton Elementary was built in 1957, before lead solder was banned, and then updated and enlarged in the 1990s.

While the water district is not required to test schools, its trustees and staff decided to offer testing to local elementary schools as a “goodwill gesture,” LaCasse said.

In a letter sent to area superintendents and principals in May providing information about the pilot program, LaCasse cited the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as having put “a spotlight on the issue of lead in water and the potential impacts of lead exposure on humans, especially children.”

The letter goes on to explain that while the water district is in compliance with its system, it realizes “there is concern from customers, especially those with young children.”

The EPA placed the water district on a reduced monitoring plan in the mid-1990s because of the effectiveness of its corrosion control treatment program, which resulted in consistently low lead levels, LaCasse said. The reduced monitoring plan requires triennial monitoring, not annual.


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