Dear Holyoke Public School Families,
In September of this year, the Holyoke Public Schools voluntarily opted to participate in a statewide program to test both lead and copper in our schools’ drinking water. We received both funding and technical support from the state Department of Public Health (DPH) and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct this testing in October. We were one of 179 communities (out of 351 in the state) to participate so that we could assure the health and safety of our entire learning community.
Under the direction of DPH and DEP, water samples were taken at all 11 schools over the last month. Upon receiving and processing the results of these over 1,800 samples, we are immediately sharing the information we have and the steps we are taking to address taps and faucets where lead and/or copper was found.
Two samples were taken from each faucet across the school district for both copper and lead. An initial sample was taken and tested and then after an initial flush of the water a second sample was taken. From the “first draw,’ approximately 14 percent of the faucets across the district were above the state and federal action levels for lead and/or copper. After the water was flushed and a second sample was taken, about 2 percent of faucets tested positive for lead and/or copper. While most of these locations are not commonly used sources of drinking water, we take these results seriously.
Please know that lead is not believed to be in our water source but plumbing and fixtures in our buildings may contain lead, resulting in an increase in the lead content in tap water. Exposure to lead is a concern because lead is a toxic metal that has a range of adverse health effects. Copper is also not believed to be in our water source but plumbing and fixtures in our buildings may contain copper, resulting in an increase in the copper content in tap water.
We are working closely with DEP, the Holyoke Board of Health and Holyoke Waterworks to implement short-term and long-term remediation plans.
- In the short term, over this long weekend, we will eliminate the use for consumption of any tap or faucet that tested positive more than once for copper or lead (shutting off fixtures or posting them as hand-washing only)
- For the taps that had only one positive finding, we will either- eliminate the tap or faucet for consumption, introduce a flushing protocol that allows for safe drinking water or provide bottled water.
These immediate actions will be put in place over the weekend and will ensure that all drinking water meets the acceptable limits of lead or copper. In the next two weeks, we will provide you with more information about our testing results and our corrective efforts across our schools. I encourage you to read the DPH documents at the following link: www.mass.gov/dph/lead-sources. We also plan to host an information session for families and community members on Monday, November 21st at 6:30 pm at Dean Technical High School, 1045 Main Street.
The challenge we face is not uncommon for older school buildings across the state. The safety and well-being of our students and staff remain our primary concern and I can assure you that we will continue our proactive and aggressive approach to this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns at email@example.com. Also, please feel free to reach out to the DPH Bureau of Environmental Health at (617) 624-5757 or our nursing supervisor, Patty Alford at firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 427-3763 for assistance with any health-related questions or concerns.
November 10, 2016