Limestone Community School awaiting results on latest round of lead water testing

2 years ago

LIMESTONE, MaineAfter public criticism regarding the superintendent’s alleged handling of initial water test results that had high levels of lead, Limestone Community School officials are hoping that remediation efforts will pay off.

At the school committee meeting Wednesday, LCS Facilities and Transportation Supervisor Ike Heffron said he has disconnected and installed water filters at all affected sinks. All sinks have undergone lead tests but Heffron is still awaiting results from the Maine CDC.

Children who drink water containing high levels of lead are at risk of brain development problems and other damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Lead also can cause learning disabilities and behavior problems, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

In September Sam Critchlow, the director of Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which shares a building with Limestone Community School, said that LCS Superintendent William Dobbins knew initial test results in March but waited until June 3 to notify school employees and parents.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention tested all 37 faucets at the school in February and found that 25 contained lead levels either well above the state’s 4 parts per billion limit or the Environmental Protection Agency’s 15 ppb — one of them 43 times more than acceptable levels.

CDC records indicated that follow-up tests were conducted at the school between March and June, but LCS only provided proof of public notification after CDC officials requested that proof in May.

The CDC also indicated through records that Dobbins waited three months to notify community members about high lead levels in faucets at Dawn F. Barnes Elementary School in Caswell, where he is also superintendent. Follow-up tests conducted in July showed that lead levels for all 19 faucets are now below 1 ppb.

The delays appeared to violate a state CDC rule that schools notify community members within five days of receiving initial results.

At an LCS school committee meeting Sept. 14, Dobbins said that he had wanted committee members to know the confirmed test results prior to making the information public. Committee members said that they did not know those results until June.

Further testing done in August found only seven LCS and MSSM faucets contain lead levels between 4 and 15 ppb. The school committee urged employees to post warning signs on all affected faucets and look into future remediation.

School committee members briefly addressed the controversy Wednesday, prior to approving minutes for the Sept. 14 meeting. 

Committee member Amanda Smith said that she did not see the entire conversation regarding lead remediation included in the minutes.

“I think that because of the publicity and amount of time spent [on addressing the issue], we should have more in [the minutes] for future reference,” Smith said.

Dobbins agreed to revise the minutes, but did not offer further comment.

The school provides copies of previous minutes at committee meetings but on its website requests that community members contact the superintendent’s office for copies any other time.

In other business, Dobbins presented former committee member Michelle Albert with an engraved rocking chair for her 18 years of service. Albert chose not to seek reelection on the committee this past spring.

Albert said that when she joined the committee in 2004, her five children were still attending LCS.

“Since I was a graduate of Limestone, I felt it was time to step up to the plate and become a part of the school as my civic responsibility,” Albert said. “I’ve enjoyed my time over the years and, you never know, I may return some day.”

The next regular Limestone Community School committee meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 9, with a time and location to be announced.