The China Middle School in China is shown recently. Students and staff since last year have relied on bottled water because of different contaminants found in the groundwater. In the last academic year the school contended with unacceptable levels of PFAS, and more recently the chemical antimony has been detected. Administrators are working with the state to install a filtration system for a well that was dug over the summer. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

CHINA — Students and staff at China Middle School are continuing to rely on bottled water this academic year because of different contaminants that have been found in the school’s water supply.

Officials with Regional School Unit 18 say work is underway to install a filtration system for a new well that’s been dug nearby the middle school.

The school began relying on bottled water last year after unacceptable levels of PFAS were detected in the groundwater. The well was dug over the summer to address the problem. Testing of the well water showed it was largely free of PFAS contaminants, but it did indicate unsafe levels of a chemical called antimony.

School Principal Lois Bowden said in an Aug. 27 email to parents that the chemical was present because of how recently the well was dug.

“A new well was successfully drilled this summer and the water testing for PFAS came back within acceptable limits,” Bowden said. “However, it has come to our attention that traces of the chemical antimony were detected due to the well being a new public water source. As a result, the water did not pass the testing.”

Antimony is a naturally occurring metal found in electronics, fire retardants and some ceramics. The chemical is not particularly toxic, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though exposure to high concentrations of it can cause heart problems, joint pain and other problems.


Bowden noted in her email that the school has installed a number of water coolers for use by students and staff.

Superintendent Carl Gartley said the district is working with state officials to complete the filtration project.

“We’re working with engineers on a filtration system that will meet the needs out there,” Gartley said. “And until that happens, we’re going to be on bottled water because kids just need clean water.”

The state is expected to cover the cost of the filtration system, he said.

“The state has a grant. We can get $50,000 for the system if we have the engineer design it, and when he turns in the design, we can turn it into the state,” Gartley said. “We can qualify for — as long as all the conditions are met, which should be fairly easy — for $50,000 for our system and $10,000 for engineering work, so up to $60,000 for this.”

Because of the grant requirements, engineering work on the system is being done by the state rather than the district, according to Dan Casey, the district’s director of facilities and grounds.


“CMS continues to be on bottled water while we await test results from the state so engineers can come up with the best filtration system for our staff and students,” Casey said in an email.

The well was part of a broader effort by the district to update its facilities, Casey said.

It’s unclear when the filtration work will be completed, but Gartley said the district is adapting to the uncertain situation.

“We’re just gonna play it by whatever they give us for a timeline,” he said.

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