Taking Lead, Copper from Andover School Water Proves Tough

Andover Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Berman.

Andover Public Schools are working to remove lead and copper from water systems after elevated levels were found at two schools earlier this year.

Officials have removed several outdated and broken water fixtures from the West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool after elevated lead levels were found in fixtures at the West Elementary and elevated copper was found in a fixture at Shawsheen, said Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Berman.

In addition, filters are being installed on five water fountains at the West Elementary School. Even though the old fountains were found to be below the state limits for lead, school officials believe that the filters will further increase the purity and safety of the water, while offering peace of mind. Follow-up testing took place Tuesday at West Elementary School and results are due in April.

Berman said his department is trying to resolve a particular problem at West Elementary School. A fixture was removed from room C12 there and replaced with a new fixture, but it still showed elevated lead levels. The plumbing and copper pipes feeding that fixture were replaced, and the lead levels actually rose, he said. The fixture is currently off limits, and the facilities department is investigating a number of possible causes.

The school department does not believe that there is any risk to the health and safety of students, faculty and staff but is continuing to take precautions to ensure safety. In addition, Berman included water quality reports in the Statement of Interest that will soon be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority as part of a proposal to renovate or replace the West Elementary School.

“While the Andover Public Schools will do everything it can today to ensure the safety of our students and the purity of the water that used for drinking, cooking and cleaning, we acknowledge that the West Elementary School building is nearing the end of its service life,” Berman said.

The high levels of lead and copper seen in tests are not coming from the town’s water supply, but rather they are directly correlated to the age and lack of use of the fixtures themselves. The schools also do not have any lead pipes.

Those seeking additional information may download fact sheets on lead levels and copper levels in drinking water, which contain information from the Department of Environmental Protection. If anyone has any questions or concerns, they may also call Berman’s Office at 978-247-7010.