Lewiston School Department maintenance worker Jamie Dubois runs water Thursday afternoon in one of the Lewiston High School labs in preparation for lead testing. Staff is collecting water samples from the high school, the middle school and Connors Elementary School this week. All other Lewiston schools have been tested. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Following reports of lead in Lewiston schools’ water, officials released a statement Wednesday morning assuring residents that city drinking water is free from lead.

The lead found in Lewiston schools is from internal plumbing and faucets, not the drinking water supply, according to the statement from the Lewiston Water Division posted to Facebook.

“The City of Lewiston has conducted lead testing in some private homes that have the highest likelihood of lead concerns, and there is no lead at all or below action levels,” according to the statement. “Be assured that the city will continue to test, in accordance with (Environmental Protection Agency) rules and regulations, and will notify residents of any concern found.”

Water from Lake Auburn all the way to the main lines which run under city streets are free of lead, Deputy Director of the Water and Sewer Division Kevin Gagne said Thursday. Testing conducted with water from fire hydrants have shown no indication of lead.

“We are an older city, we understand the older homes or the older apartment buildings – it’s not a new concern,” Gagne said. “I know there’s been some new attention to it, (but) I think we’re doing a really excellent job in maintaining good water quality and trying to have the best, safest water to the customer and to meet regulations.”

Lead is a toxin that can impair the development of young children, especially those under the age of 6, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention website. Children are most commonly exposed through old paint dust, which is “almost always the cause of lead poisoning,” it states.


Lewiston has historically had the highest rates of lead poisoning in the state, however exposure is primarily from lead paint or contaminated dust. Gagne said he did not know of any cases of lead poisoning in the city traced to the water.

Gagne has received three or four emails and phone calls from concerned residents since Superintendent Jake Langlais shared the results of school lead testing Feb. 11.

The testing results showed that one in three water sources from district schools — not including the high school, the middle school and Connors Elementary School — had lead levels higher than the state standard of 4 parts per billion, which is stricter than the federal standard of 15 parts per billion.

Water at the high school, middle school and Connors Elementary School is being collected for testing this week.

City water is treated with orthophosphate, a chemical commonly added to drinking water to prevent corrosion and reduce the amount of lead which may be taken up by water traveling in older pipes, Gagne said.

Still, it is possible that pipes and faucets in older homes could introduce lead in the water, Gagne said, specifically pointing to lead solder.


He shared several recommendations to reduce potential exposures to lead.

Residents should only use cold water for cooking, he said. Hot water has the highest possibility of carrying lead because it dissolves contaminants like lead more quickly than cold water.

Never use the water that comes right out of the tap, he added. Let the water run for a few seconds to flush out water that may have been sitting in the pipes.

The Facebook statement also encouraged people to be sure that solder is lead-free when renovating or fixing water pipes and fixtures.

Residents with concerns or questions about water safety should call the city Water and Sewer Division at 207-513-3003 or read the informational brochure on their website.

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