Water at Adams-Cheshire Regional schools to be tested for lead, copper

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CHESHIRE — Adams-Cheshire Regional School District will sample its water for lead and copper contamination, officials announced this week.

The testing is conducted with assistance from the state Department of Environmental Protection and University of Massachusetts, with funding provided through the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust.

"We're going to get info that will enable us to ensure safety and safe drinking water for our students and our staff," Superintendent Robert Putnam said.

District employees have worked with UMass technical staff to outline the school buildings' plumbing and inventory all of the taps and water sources that will be sampled.

Samples will be taken Thursday and Friday morning and testing will be conducted in the coming weeks from 94 water samples taken at C.T. Plunkett Elementary in Adams, 35 samples from Cheshire Elementary School, and 62 samples from Hoosac Valley Middle and High School, according to district officials.

The oldest parts of Cheshire and Plunkett elementary schools date back to the 1920s, though both have either been added to or renovated since.

"I'm not sure what any of these are going to yield," Putnam said.

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Recent testing in North Adams Public Schools found that more than 50 sources of water throughout the district were above the state's guidelines for lead and copper levels, though only about half of those were actually used for drinking water, according to district officials.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this year that $2 million would be set aside from the the Clean Water Trust to test for lead and copper in schools. According to the most recently available data on the DEP website, 206 of the 537 school buildings tested statewide through Nov. 17 had at least one action level result for lead or copper contamination.

"The state really made every effort to make sure districts could take advantage of this, because it is a costly endeavor," Putnam said.

The "action level" — the point at which the school should remedy the source problem — set by the DEP for lead is 0.015 milligrams per liter, while the threshold for copper is 1.3 mg per liter.

According to the DEP, most lead exposure in Massachusetts is due to lead paint dust and chips, not drinking water. However, it notes that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead exposure.

Putnam noted that the testing is not targeted at the water source in either towns, but is rather focused in the internal plumbing and fixtures in each school building.

The results of the tests, which are conducted by a certified lab, will be sent directly to the DEP before being forwarded to the district.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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