July 22, 2018
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Bangor replacing water fountains at rec center due to trace levels of lead

By Alex Acquisto, BDN Staff

The city is working quickly to replace drinking fountains at the Bangor Parks and Recreation Center after tests showed one of them was dispensing three times the recommended amount of lead in its water.

All three water fountains on each of the center’s floors will be replaced, but only one of them — the water fountain on the first floor where the Main Street entrance is located — was found to have traces of lead higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended amount for an individual water outlet, which is 20 parts per billion, Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette said.

Test results, which were received on Wednesday, confirmed that the water from the fountain on the first floor 647 Main St. building tested for 65 ppb. The fountain on the main floor, where administrative offices and the center’s gymnasium are located, was found to have 10 ppb, and the third floor fountain showed 19 ppb, Willette said, adding that each of the fountains are more than 20 years old.

“We have no reason to believe there is a substantial health risk,” he said.

The EPA recommends individual water source outlets, like a water fountain, be taken out of service if its lead level exceeds 20 ppb. Testing water for lead in schools or in individual buildings like the Parks and Recreation Center is only required on a voluntary basis, according to federal EPA guidelines, which is how the trace levels were detected in the first place.

A routine mechanical issue on one of the fountains was being fixed when officials decided to test lead levels.

“We tested them voluntarily and in an effort to be proactive,” Willette said. In a letter to participants Wednesday night, a department official said they would routinely test the water going forward.

“The amount of water consumed at this location is not likely to affect your child,” the department said.

In 2010, the city’s public water system, which serves the greater Bangor area, tested high for trace amounts of lead for the first time since the early 1990s — a range of 18 to 60 ppb — levels not high enough to pose a health risk, officials said at the time. For a public water source that supplies primary drinking water to residences, the EPA threshold for acceptable lead levels is 15 ppb. The most recent and notable case of lead poisoning in the country occurred in Flint, Michigan, beginning in 2014. A state of emergency was declared after trace amounts of lead surpassing 10,000 ppb were detected in the water supply.

Water district testing is done annually by sampling tap water from about 30 different residences that are considered at the highest risk of contamination because of old pipes, Bangor Water District Director Kathy Moriarty said. If trace levels are consistently low over multiple years, as has been the case in the Bangor Water District, officials are only required to test the water every three years.

The last Bangor Water District test almost three years ago yielded a lead level of 4 ppm, Moriarty said. The water district is slated to test its supply again this summer.

Willette said he believes the first-floor fountain’s contamination was isolated, due to old solder on two pipes that fed water to the fountain.

Willette said it’s difficult to quantify how often each fountain is used. There are rec programs in the building throughout the day most days, and while the center’s main entrance feeds into the first floor, the second-floor fountain is likely the most used.

Lead exposure, which poses the greatest risk to infants, children and pregnant women, can lead to neurological problems, and brain and kidney dysfunction.

One new fountain arrived Wednesday, and the other two arrived Thursday morning, he said, Lead levels will be re-tested once installed.

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