SACO — Officials at Thornton Academy in Saco say they plan to consult with water safety experts to determine the best steps to mitigate lead levels in five drinking water sources and 97 others identified by TA as non-drinking water sources, that exceed Maine’s limits.

Maine’s acceptable standard for lead in drinking water is 4 parts per billion; the federal government standard is 15 parts per billion for public water systems.

The five drinking water sources that exceeded the state limits include one in the Emery Locke Building, one in the girl’s locker room, a water fountain on the Eastern Trail, and two sources in an administrative office, said Thornton Academy Director of Operations Marsha Snyder.

As well, 97 faucets and sinks in the school’s science labs and in bathrooms also turned up levels of lead that exceeded the state limits.

“We are conducting additional tests to confirm the initial results and are consulting with water safety experts to determine the best mitigation strategy to address all of the 102 affected water sources,” said Snyder an email. “All have been shut off.”

According to the Drinking Water Program of the Maine Centers for Disease Control, when lead is present in water, it typically leaches, or dissolves, into water flowing through plumbing and fixtures inside a building from sources such as solder, pipes, or faucets. A school’s public water supply or well water are unlikely sources of lead, according to the Maine CDC.


Potential solutions include removing those locations no longer in use, as well as replacing fixtures or pipes that may be a source of lead, Snyder said.

“The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we expect to have all mitigation work completed by the start of school,” said Snyder.

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

A review of the 46 TA samples that were listed on the CDC’s webpage as of June 24 shows the highest lead level, found in a sink, was 1,020 parts per billion — one of three samples listed that exceeded 500 parts per billion. Several other sinks test results ranged from 1.8 parts per billion up to 477 parts per billion. Eight sinks tested below the 4 parts per billion standard.

Aside from the five drinking water sources that exceeded the state limits, the CDC data lists two drinking water fountains, five-bathroom sinks, and a kitchen hand-wash sink that tested at zero parts per billion.

The Maine Legislature 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 was scheduled to wind down May 31 but has been extended. The Maine CDC said initial samples will be accepted by the agency between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31

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