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Proactive Testing in Portland Public Schools Shows Drinking Water Safe

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Proactive Testing in Portland Public Schools Shows Drinking Water Safe
Posted on 05/18/2016
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Recent testing by City staff for lead in the drinking water of Portland Public Schools’ facilities shows safe levels in the district’s school buildings and its Central Kitchen and Central Office facilities.

To be proactive, City maintenance staff took samples of water for testing earlier this spring after a lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Mich. raised questions about the safety of drinking water in school systems around the country.

The water samples were taken at 17 PPS facilities in late March and the Portland Water District analyzed them in April. The results show that the lead results in all locations were below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level of 15 micrograms per liter (μg/L).

Water coming into a facility does not contain lead so any lead present originates from interior plumbing and fixtures, according to the Portland Water District. Even though zero lead is the goal, is it typical to have at least some trace amount of lead in drinking water in homes and buildings in Maine. Faucets manufactured prior to 2014 contained lead and prior to 1987, when Maine outlawed it, lead was used to solder plumbing joints.

Although not required to do so by law, PPS has installed bottle filler water coolers at most schools, which can filter out some lead.

The water district also tested the PPS facilities for copper. All the copper results were well below the EPA action level of 1.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L), with the exception of water from a faucet at Lyseth Elementary School, which tested at 1.4 mg/L. Recent plumbing work is most likely the factor in the slightly high result. Water from that faucet is being retested and results are expected later this month. Another water sample taken from Lyseth during the testing in March had a much lower result of .26 mg/L.

Copper gets into the water by dissolving from copper pipes, especially new ones. Over time, a coating forms in the pipes that can insulate the water from the copper in the pipes. The Lyseth faucet with the high copper level is connected to a new copper pipe. If water is run for about 30 seconds, the copper clears out, so PPS recommends that faucet be run before drinking water from it. Also, there are two bottle water coolers at Lyseth.

The results of water testing results at PPS facilities can be found by clicking here. You can also go to the Portland Public Schools website, www.portlandschools.org. Go to the Facilities Department to access a file labeled “School Water Testing April 2016.”