FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 (RSU 9) Board of Directors on Tuesday, May 10, authorized Superintendent Chris Elkington to request the Maine Commissioner of Education waive the last required student-day of school.

This would maintain the last day of the 2021-22 school year as Friday, June 17.

The request is part of a larger plan for RSU 9 administration to address elevated levels of lead in approximately 46% of tested fixtures across district schools.

RSU 9 learned Thursday, May 5, that 38 of 117 water fixtures in the district’s seven schools tested above the state standard of 4 parts-per-billion (ppb). Additionally, 16 of 117 tested above the federal standard of 15 ppb.

The Press Herald reports that Maine has set an acceptable lead limit of 4 parts per billion — stricter than the federal standard of 15 ppb.

LD 153 was passed in 2019 to require “all schools to test water used for drinking or culinary purposes for lead” and establish with DHHS rule “water lead levels, testing protocols, appropriate abatement and mitigation methods and public notification requirements.”


Since the Drinking Water Program launched Oct. 1, 2021, many schools across Maine have exceeded the acceptable limit for lead — with a high percentage exceeding the 15 ppb level.

Detailed lab reports have been published on the district’s website at

The district closed school Friday, May 6, in response to the test results – prompting the need for an additional day of school to meet the requirement of 175 student days.

The district was able to resume classes Monday, May 9, by providing students and kitchen staff with bottled water donated by Walmart and Hannaford.

Moving forward, the district is conducting remediated testing of the fixtures with elevated levels of lead.

Tests are being conducted on standing water in fixtures, flushed water in fixtures, and the fixture closest to the water source leading into the building. This will help determine future steps to remedy the issue.


Elkington was hoping to test other fixtures in schools but said the testing-service company is “so backed up” they will not be able to test new fixtures until the fall.

For now, the company is able to test the fixtures with elevated levels. Elkington estimates testing results will be in following the end of the school year – perhaps six weeks from now.

During the meeting, Directors asked about funding to address the issue, using fixtures in the schools, and the safety of bottled water.

Elkington told the board that there are suspicions that elevated levels of lead in newer fixtures are manifesting in fixtures that use hot water based on similar patterns in the kitchen and staff lounge.

“The ones going above 15 [ppb] are in some of the older buildings?” Director Kirk Doyle asked.

Yes, all five elementary schools, Elkington said.


Is this an issue with the water source or the water tower, Director Cherieann Harrison asked.

Elkington said after consultation with the Wilton and Farmington water districts, “we’re really being told it doesn’t look like a source issue.”

Wilton and Farmington do “their testing on a regular basis,” he said, adding that the well source at Cape Cod Hill School also tests regularly.

Harrison asked where funding will come from to fix the issue; will it come from this year’s budget?

Elkington said administration is looking at assistance from state and federal funding.

Spring projects such as repairing parking lots have also been put on hold for the time being, he added.


“There should be money available depending on what we need to do, particularly by not doing additional projects this spring,” RSU 9 Business Manager Dan Higgins said. “If you ended up … wanting to come back to the board and the voters to go back and use an additional portion of existing fund balance, that would also not be raising additional dollars [from taxpayers].”

The district is currently looking at cost estimates for replacing fixtures, filtration systems and potentially hiring a filtration-systems specialist.

“No, we’re not looking at freezing the budget at this time,” Elkington said.

“Were we one of the earliest districts to test?” Director Betsey Hyde asked.

Elkington said approximately 35 other districts across Maine have had “multiple [fixtures] not meet the standard.”

Results for schools in Maine can be found at the Maine Drinking Water Program’s data table (


Hyde also asked why lead would be present in newer pipes, fixtures if lead pipes were banned in 1986.

Until 2011 or 2012, “some faucets and fixtures that were being produced did have some lead content in it,” Higgins said he was told by a representative from the Maine Drinking Water Program.

Additionally, “water in Maine and New England has a much higher level of corrosivity … than in other parts of the country.

“And with the higher level of corrosive nature of the water and the high dissolving nature of the water, it makes schools in Maine and New England more vulnerable to this,” Higgins said.

But not if there wasn’t lead already present in the faucet or the pipe, right, Hyde asked.

Yes, Higgins said. We’d have to “do some digging” to find information on purchase and installation, he added.


Director J. Wayne Kinney asked how the district is ensuring the bottled water is also safe.

I will look into that, we are getting bottles from Poland Springs, Elkington responded.

Moving forward, the district has set a plan to resume use of appropriate fixtures.

At Mt. Blue Campus and Mt. Blue Middle School, water fountains that are safe will be back in use “since all of the drinking areas were below 4 [ppb],” but bottled water will still be available.

At the elementary schools, “we’ll just continue with bottled water for all of our kids” and the district should have enough supply “with the support from Walmart.”

The district will continue investigating funds available and “develop our lead-testing plan.”

“Right now we’re looking [to] … test again in six months, and then start annual testing, which is not asked for by the state,” Elkington said.

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