Westport Community Schools Completes Manganese Remediation in Drinking Fountains at Macomber School

Drinking Fountains to be Turned On Feb. 24

WESTPORT — Superintendent Gary Reese is pleased to report that the district has completed its manganese remediation in the drinking fountains at the Macomber School after several years of work.

In the spring of 2019, the district began working with Northeast Water Solutions of Exeter, Rhode Island to evaluate the issue and develop a long-term remedy. A new filtration system was installed in July and has since passed all rounds of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) testing.

The school’s drinking water will be turned back on Monday, Feb. 24, and the water is now safe to drink. The water will continue to be tested monthly by the DEP to ensure the new system continues to work as expected.

In July 2014, drinking fountains in the school were tested and found to be not compliant with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) limits for manganese. The foundations were immediately shut off and the district began the process of determining how to most effectively repair the filtration system.

When the drinking fountains tested for elevated manganese levels, the school immediately began using bottled water for drinking water. All heads were removed from classroom bubblers and signage was added to warn that the bubblers were not to be used. Students and staff were provided drinking water via water bottles or water coolers. The school’s kitchens also used bottled water for cooking during that time.

Before hiring Northeast Water Solutions, the district began working with another engineering firm to design a water treatment system to resolve the problem, and a new system was installed in April 2015. The system worked well at first, but through subsequent testing the manganese levels began to climb once again. The school transitioned back to bottled water in November 2015. After many months working to resolve the issues of the system, it was determined that the system was not working as intended and the district chose to move forward to find a different treatment plan.

“This has long been an issue that students and staff at the Macomber School have been dealing with and I am very happy that we’ve finally been able to resolve the situation. We’re optimistic that this system will work properly for many years to come,” Superintendent Reese said. “I would like to commend our facilities director, Mike Duarte, for all of his efforts to resolve this problem over the past several years.”

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