Elevated lead levels resolved in Morris Elementary School water
LENOX >> Starting Monday, all of the water fountains at Morris Elementary School will be safe for use.
The school had been using temporary bottled water bubblers for drinking since July, when slightly elevated lead levels were discovered in water in part of the building.
Major repairs to the system during the past three weeks have yielded a clean bill of health following a new round of water testing, Superintendent Timothy Lee said on Friday.
"All other drinking water sources are now testing as safe and the remaining issues of the hot water system have been addressed," he said.
An extensive set of tests ordered by the town and the school district earlier this summer revealed that water from several fixtures in the older section of the Morris building showed lead levels slightly higher than the state Department of Environmental Protection's action level.
Lee said the source of the lead was an old hot water storage tank in the boiler room that affected the cold water supply because of a faulty check valve. The repair involved bypassing and replacing that tank.
Three fixtures that still tested for low levels of lead have been removed and capped.
He expressed thanks to the town, the Department of Public Works, the Water Department and Lead Custodian Tom Hynes for their "unwavering support" in resolving the water system issues.
Lee invited any members of the public who wish to examine water sampling records or who seek more information about the now-resolved problem to contact the superintendent's office at 413-637-5550.
"I can walk you through the original testing and latest testing, the confirmed sources of lead, and the repairs to fix the problem," he said.
The expanded water testing that uncovered the slightly elevated lead levels was done a year ahead of the state-required schedule because of events elsewhere such as the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and water-system contamination in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
The source of the lead levels was traced to four cafeteria kitchen faucets at Morris rarely used as direct sources for drinking.
No above-normal lead levels were detected in tests at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School.
Lee had notified the Morris community by letter in early August that as a precautionary measure, the normal drinking water supply would be shut down for repairs.
After Lenox Water Department Foreman Robert Horn and technicians from the global engineering firm AECOM in Latham, N.Y., traced the source of problem, repairs were made, the system was flushed and new tests showed the elevated lead levels were no longer present.
Lee had stressed that the district had no evidence of any health risk to students, staff or other users of the Morris water system.
The sampling at Morris had produced a finding of 17 parts per billion of lead in a faucet at the Title 1 office, 21 in a kitchen sink and pot-filler and 23 in the paraprofessional office. The state DEP imposes an action level when lead is detected at 15 parts per billion or above.
Out of 36 samples at the school, 32 were normal. No lead contamination was found at water fountains elsewhere in the school during two rounds of testing, one in June and a followup in early July to confirm the initial results, DPW Superintendent Sean VanDeusen said.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
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