Two Boston Public Schools facilities employees have been placed on administrative leave after lead was found in the drinking water of several schools in the city.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang said in a statement that the two facilities department workers will remain on leave pending the results of an internal investigation.
He added "we are confident that all active water foundains meet state standards and are fine for students and faculty use."
School officials said water fountains installed at six schools were prematurely activated before testing had been completed.
According to the district, fountains were turned on erroneously at Trotter Elementary School, Curely K-8 School, Lee Elementary School, Mather Elementary School, Boston Green Academy and Another Course to College.
- From Nov. 23 through Dec. 14, fountains at Mather were prematurely in use. Testing in November showed seven of the school's nine fountains had high levels of lead. The same figures were found through eight more rounds of testing through March. All fountains were turned off after the issue was discovered in December, and parents were notified of the situation in February.
- Fountains at Lee were left on for about five days in January. Five rounds of testing were performed between December and March, and one of the seven affected fountains had high levels of lead.
- At Another Course to College, six fountains were on for 12 to 24 hours. One of those fountains was found to have elevated lead levels.
- The fountains at Curley were turned off within 24 to 48 hours. Of the 12 fountains that were prematurely activated, eight were found to have levels of lead beyond the state's standard acceptable limit.
- Trotter's fountains had been covered with garbage bags and were turned off very quickly. School officials do not believe anyone drank from these fountains, but tests in February and March showed that five of the seven fountains had high levels of lead.
- Fountains at Boston Green Academy were turned on for 12 to 48 hours, but subsequent testing showed the lead content was within the acceptable limits - lead was not even detectable in some cases.
At these six schools, and in the majority of other public schools in the city, bottled water is being used, according to the district.
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In April, 38 schools with functioning water fountains were inventoried. Fountains at 36 of those schools were sampled, and four of those schools had fountains with levels of lead that eclipsed the standard limit.
At Kenny Elementary School, three fountains sampled were found to have too much lead. At Hernandez School, one of the six fountains tested contained high levels. One of the 10 fountains sampled at Murphy School had high levels of lead. At Boston Latin Academy, three of the five fountains sampled had high detections.
Lead is an extremely toxic substance. The Boston Public Health Commission notes that it can damage the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells - particularly in children and pregnant women.
Mayor Marty Walsh said the city and school department are working to address the problem, and added "they're on top" of the situation. He called the mistake due to miscommunication between the school department and a third party contractor "unacceptable."
Chang said he is confident that all active water fountains meet state standards and are fine for students and faculty to use.
"All active water fountains were tested in April, and the results were triple verified by Boston Public Schools, Boston Water & Sewer Commission and a third-party contractor," he said. "There is nothing more important than the health and well-beign of our students and staff."