NORTH SUTTON — Water coming out of the faucet in the Kearsarge Regional Middle School nurse’s office tested positive for elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), prompting a shutdown of all water taps in the school.
“The health and wellness of our students and employees is paramount at the Kearsarge Regional School District,” Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said in a statement released from the district office in New London Tuesday.
Test results from water samples taken last month show that the water in the nurse’s office had 153 parts per trillion of PFOA, while the new state standard for PFOA in drinking water is 12 parts per trillion.
This result comes after the first round of testing at the school as required by the state’s new PFOA standards. It is triggering the district to take immediate steps in the middle school. It has also led to testing, currently underway, at all the other schools in the district.
“While we have been informed that this test result does not constitute an emergency, we nonetheless are taking strict actions to ensure that those in our middle school and other facilities do not consume water containing any elevated amounts of these chemicals, for which the state has this year enacted strict regulations and testing requirements,” Feneberg said.
Feneberg said the district is investigating appropriate water treatment options and has consulted with treatment providers. In the meantime, the district is making bottled water available to students and staff.
It’s not known how the chemical got into the water. PFOA is part of a family of man-made chemicals that were used for decades as an ingredient to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. The state has been dealing with PFOA contamination in areas on the Seacoast linked to the firefighting foam at Pease Air Force Base. Contamination has also been an issue in Merrimack and Litchfield, connected to the Saint-Gobain plastics plant in Merrimack.
Studies indicate that people who drink water containing high quantities of these chemicals over many years may be at higher risk of liver and endocrine problems, certain types of cancer, higher cholesterol levels and fertility issues in women, according to the Kearsarge statement.