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Lincoln School students, staff must wait for safe water

Ashland School District hopeful plumbing fixed high levels of lead in school’s water, but they await green light to turn on taps
Presence of lead in drinking water - concept with the Mendeleev periodic table and old water brass faucet

Ashland School District officials used the summer to resolve high levels of lead in the water at Lincoln School, but staff and students still don’t have drinkable or potable liquid flowing from the faucets, even as they return to class for a new school year.

Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove gave an update in a recent district newsletter, saying that five of the 12 faulty faucets that continued to have elevated lead levels, after allowing the water to run, are expected to be tested again this fall. Lincoln School’s tap water won’t be turned on until all the spigots are shown to operate normally.

Until that time, students and staff still are using bottled water for drinking and some toilet needs, he said in an interview Friday.

“I haven’t heard anybody raise concerns — most of the kids are eco-minded, and they bring their own bottles to school; a lot of the staff do that, as well,” Bogdanove said. “You have to remember that during COVID-19, all of the fountains were closed off, so they’re used to not using water fountains.”

No students attending Lincoln School, which houses some alternative learning programs, have reported any health problems since the lead was detected in May, when Lincoln School and other district buildings had their water supplies tested for the first time since 2016.

While no other schools were shown to have major issues, a May 9 report from the Medford-based Neilson Research Corporation on Lincoln School’s water revealed 12 of the 60 faucets in the school had lead above levels deemed safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency has set a maximum standard for lead in water of 15 parts per billion. According to Neilson’s report, Lincoln School had lead levels of 19.9, 22.6, 39.4, 57.4 and 120 ppb.

According to Bogdanove, additional samples were drawn for secondary testing, with results received June 7. Results of the secondary tests show that five of the faucets continue to have elevated lead levels after allowing the water to run.

“The recommended next step in mitigation was to replace the fixtures and shut-off valves on all the affected faucets, and retest. This work occurred over the summer,” Bogdanove wrote in his newsletter.

Now, the district awaits more testing to see if plumbing addressed the issue.

All things considered, the superintendent said the water issues at Lincoln School are not putting a damper on the start of the school year.

“It’s been a better start to the school year in many, many respects,” Bogdanove said. “Honestly, as far as things go, I think our teachers and our kids are pretty flexible over there, and they’ve had a really positive start for those programs at Lincoln.

“The kids are just glad to get back to normal after COVID ... water is a small thing compared to what they’ve gone through the last two years.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.