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Groton will consult with state over school water testing

May 11, 2018 GMT

Groton — Superintendent Michael Graner will meet Monday with the State Department of Public Health to discuss how to best approach testing of the water in the public schools.

The issue dates back to 2016. After the water crisis in Flint, Mich. became public, Groton school officials decided to test the district’s water also. The district tested 55 water sources in its then ten schools and found unacceptably high levels of lead in three of the sources.

Testing showed elevated levels in one sink each at Claude Chester and Pleasant Valley elementary schools, and in a fountain at Robert E. Fitch High School. After seeing the results, the district shut off the water fountain in the business hallway at Fitch, and provided bottled water at Claude Chester. Pleasant Valley Elementary School closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

The school department had sought $50,000 for an engineering study to determine the source of lead. The Town Council denied the request last month, but the Representative Town Meeting overrode that decision on Wednesday.

“I certainly realize that there is significant parental concern about the health of the water, and we are going to do everything in our power using the assistance of water experts from the health district and the state health department to address this concern,” Graner said.

School maintenance employees did work over the summer of 2016, but testing in August of that year found levels still were unsatisfactory.

The difficulty is knowing where the lead is coming from. The water from Groton Utilities is clean at the source, so school officials don’t know where the problem is occurring. Pipes could have lead solder, but they are also buried in concrete.

Graner said he and School Facilities Director Samuel Kilpatrick reached out to Ledge Light Health District and the State Department of Health on Thursday. The health district and state run a joint lead poisoning prevention program, which Graner and Kilpatrick will use to obtain recommendations about where to test water, and how to remediate any issues found, Graner said.

The schools recently began providing bottled water at Fitch, for the area of the high school where the fountain was shut off, Graner said.