Water fountains and sinks in Biddeford and Saco public schools have been taken out of service in instances where water test results exceeded Maine’s 4 parts per billion limit for lead. The systems have been flushed and retested and the school departments are awaiting those results. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald Photo

Biddeford and Saco school departments have removed from service all school drinking water fountains and other fixtures in cases where water from them tested above Maine’s 4 parts per billion acceptable standard for lead content.

Mitigation plans were put into place earlier this month in the schools in each district that had water from some fixtures test higher than the state standard. That included discontinuing the use of those fixtures, adding portable drinking water fountains where needed, scheduling a system flush and retest, determining the number of fixture changes that would be needed if retest results are above 4 parts per billion, and posting results at schools and notifying families.

“We removed anything over 4 parts per billion immediately from service, brought in water in some places where necessary and shut fixtures down,” Superintendent Jeremy Ray told the Biddeford School Committee on April 12.

The Maine Legislature had mandated that all K-12 schools in Maine test their drinking water for the presence of lead. The testing program, paid for through a federal grant, began last fall and is scheduled to wind down May 31.

Lead can get into water from solder, pipes, brass faucets, fittings, and valves, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control.

Exposure to lead can cause learning disabilities and developmental challenges in children.


Ray told the Biddeford School Committee on April 12 that system flushing and retesting was to take place during April school vacation week. That took place in both Saco and Biddeford last week, he said by email on Monday.

“All of our schools are on public water, but once it reaches the school, we can get different results,” Ray said.

Maine’s acceptable level, at 4 parts per billion, is more stringent than its federal counterpart, which is 15 parts per billion.

When tests were taken at Biddeford and Saco schools, Saco Middle School water samples taken Feb. 24 showed that of 20 samples taken in various locations in the school, 13 had concentrations above the 4 parts per billion level — and ranged from a low of 4.9 parts per billion in a drinking water fountain to a high of 210 parts per billion in a sink.

Testing at Saco’s other public schools showed a handful of incidences when limits exceeded 4 parts per billion — at Saco Learning Center, for example, water taken from a kitchen sink tested at 19.2 parts per billion.

At John F. Kennedy School in Biddeford, nine water samples tested were above the Maine limit, ranging from 4.1 parts per billion to 26.2 parts per billion.


A February water test from a drinking water fountain at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology tested at 88.8 parts per billion. A further test taken on March 3 showed no instances exceeded 4 parts per billion, according to  results.

Other Biddeford schools each had a handful of instances above the limit, except for the Alternative Pathways program, that had none.

Ray on Monday said he is not sure when the results of tests taken in the schools over the April vacation will be available — he noted results from the first-round of testing took about five weeks.

According to a Feb.15 Portland Press Herald story, about one-third of tests taken in Maine by that date exceeded the acceptable limit for lead.

According to the Maine CDC, which as of Tuesday had last updated statewide results on April 5, samples had not been collected at Regional School Unit 23 in Old Orchard Beach.

Statewide results, by school, may be viewed at: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/dwp/pws/testingLeadSchoolWater.shtml

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