AOS 47 Superintendent James Stoneton speaks at a recent School Committee meeting in the library of the Dedham School, where high levels of salt were found in the drinking water this summer. PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA

New contaminants found in Dedham School water



DEDHAM — Extremely high levels of lead were detected in the drinking water at Dedham School last spring. Now, new water tests have revealed high levels of salts, too.

“I’m glad that they caught it because this way we’ll make sure that we’ll clean up everything,” said School Superintendent James Stoneton.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, too much salt in drinking water can lead to high blood pressure. Lead in drinking water can cause slowed growth, anemia, hearing problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity.

The lead seeped into the water from the 60-year-old pipes near the school’s main office. But the salt comes from the underground well that supplies both the school and the town office.

Officials are unsure of the source of the salt.

Students at the Dedham School will continue drinking from five-gallon water coolers until either a new well is discovered or a filtration system is installed. PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA
Students at the Dedham School will continue drinking from five-gallon water coolers until either a new well site is discovered or a filtration system is installed.
PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA

Stoneton said that salt used to de-ice roads in the winter may have seeped into the well. Similar problems have occurred in Bridgewater, N.J., where residents tasted salt in the water after the township used road salt to melt snow and ice during the winter. A.E. Hodsdon, the engineering firm hired to conduct the tests, also is researching whether there was once a salt shed in the area that might have caused the contamination.

Meanwhile, the firm is trying to locate a separate, uncontaminated underground water source nearby that the school could use.

Stoneton is unsure they will succeed.

“I don’t know if they will find anything,” he said, “because the bedrock is so high.”

For now, the plan is to replace the school’s old pipes and install a water filtration system that will remove salt from the water. But the system takes at least one minute to make a gallon of freshwater, which is too slow for the demands of the school.

“There are 200 people in that building,” Stoneton said. He is setting aside a storage room in the school to hold a tank that will store water cleaned overnight, so that students and staff have a reservoir to draw from during the day.

The school district (AOS 47) received a grant from the Maine Division of Environmental Health to cover the cost of the water treatment, once all those costs have been determined. That won’t happen until the engineering firm has finished its search for a new well. If a new well is discovered, the grant can help pay for tapping that source of clean water. If not, the grant can help pay for a new filtration system, as well as replacing the old pipes in the school. Until then, students and staff will keep drinking from the five-gallon water coolers dispersed throughout the school once classes begin on Aug. 31.

“We won’t remove the bottled water until we’re absolutely sure that everything in place is functioning and does what we expect it to,” Stoneton said.

David Roza

David Roza

Former reporter, David Roza grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and covered news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.