Frequently Asked Questions

How does lead get in drinking water?

 In Massachusetts, most drinking water sources like reservoirs and groundwater are lead free.  When lead is present in water, it is typically due to the water flowing through lead pipes or plumbing in homes with lead parts or solder.  Service lines, which are the pipes that connect your home to the water main, could have lead in them.  Inside your home, you may have lead pipes, copper pipes connected with lead solder, or brass faucets or fittings containing lead.  Lead levels are highest when the water has been sitting in lead pipes for several hours.  Hot water causes lead to enter water faster.

 How does lead get in my body?

 In many cases, most exposure to lead is from paint dust, paint chips, and soil contaminated with lead.  Lead can also get into your body by drinking or cooking with water containing lead.  Lead is not absorbed through the skin.  Bathing or showering in water containing lead should be safe.

 Most children come into contact with lead by being exposed to the paint in old homes.  When old paint that contains lead peels and cracks, it creates lead dust and chips.  Home renovation may also create significant amounts of lead dust and must be done with caution.  Lead dust can be breathed in or get onto hands and toys.  Lead intake often occurs when children put their hands and toys in their mouths.

 Should I have my children tested?

 Children under the age of 6 years old are at greatest risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths.  In Massachusetts, children must be tested for lead at ages 9-12 months, 2 years old, 3 years old, and, if you live in a high risk neighborhood,  4 years old.  Every child must have at least one blood lead level test before they begin kindergarten.

 These standard testing procedures are likely adequate for the vast majority of Newton residents.  If you have additional concerns and would like your child tested further, please discuss with your pediatrician.  If you do choose to have your child tested, a blood sample taken from the child’s vein is more accurate than a sample taken from the child’s finger.  Please know that the cost of any blood lead level testing will be the responsibility of the resident.

 How can I reduce the risk of lead exposure from drinking water?

 If your water has gone unused for more than 6 hours, run any faucet used for drinking or cooking until the water becomes cold before using.

 Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula/food for infants.

 Please note that boiling water does not eliminate lead.  If there is lead in your water, boiling it will increase lead levels.

 Please go to  for a full explanation of ways to reduce your exposure to lead in tap water.

 How is the water tested in Newton Public Schools?

 For the past 14 years, the City has complied with state mandated water testing in schools which involved selected sampling in two schools a year on a rotating basis. This year, based on reports of lead in water in other communities, we decided to go beyond the required testing and sample two water fountains in each of the school buildings.  Two samples are taken from each of the tested water fountains. The first sample is labeled first draw (FD) and is taken right when the fountain is turned on.  The second sample is taken after the fountain has run for 10 minutes and is labeled flush (F).  For lead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires remedial action for test results above 15 ug/L.  Click here to see results from the 2016 tests of Newton Public Schools.

What has been done so far at Burr Elementary School?

 During the initial round of testing, one of the water fountains at Burr Elementary School tested above the EPA actionable level for lead (15 ug/L).  Water service was immediately shut off to all water fountains at Burr, bottled water was supplied to the school, and a second round of testing was done.  The second round of testing again showed elevated lead levels.

 All hallway water fountains at Burr have been removed and we will continue to supply bottled water to the school.  The water fountains will not be replaced until we confirm the water is safe to drink.

 Ongoing testing and planning is in progress. Representatives from the school, water, public buildings, and health departments are discussing next steps and will develop a remediation plan.

What is being done at the other Newton Public Schools?  

 All other samples collected were below the EPA actionable level.  Out of an abundance of caution, additional samples at Horace Mann Elementary School, John Ward Elementary School and Cabot Elementary school were tested and came back below action levels.



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