A Limestone superintendent who allegedly waited three months to notify the community of dangerous lead levels in water faucets also waited to inform parents of students at a neighboring town’s school, where he is also the superintendent.
Limestone Community School Superintendent William Dobbins knew initial test results in March but did not inform school employees and parents until June 3, said Sam Critchlow, director of the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which shares a building with Limestone Community School.
Dobbins also waited until June 3 to notify parents whose children attend Dawn F. Barnes Elementary School in Caswell that 16 of the school’s 19 faucets tested above 4 or 15 ppb in March, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention records. As in Limestone, students and staff at the Caswell school were potentially exposed to unsafe levels of lead, which could cause health effects such as brain and nervous system damage and slowed growth and development.
Dobbin’s decision not to inform parents drew criticism earlier this month from Limestone school officials and appeared to violate a state CDC rule that schools are to notify the community of lead test results in five days.
Though all Maine schools are legally required to test for lead contamination, state law does not enforce schools to abide by the five-day window, Robert Long, Maine CDC communications director, said Monday. If the CDC’s Drinking Water Program does not receive proof of public notification within five days, they can still post test results online and in local media.
All Maine schools have been testing for lead following the 2019 Act to Strengthen Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water. A district in Farmington canceled classes this spring after finding unacceptable levels in 54 of its 117 fixtures. The Bangor School Department replaced water pipes in seven city schools after high levels were found.
SAD 1 in Presque Isle also found 23 of its 144 taps contained high levels. Officials shut off the taps and planned remediation.
Dawn F. Barnes Elementary School is located five miles northeast of Limestone and serves students in pre-K to grade 8. Dobbins has served as superintendent in Caswell since 1993 and in Limestone since 2019.
Follow-up tests that the CDC performed in July showed that all faucets in the Caswell school are now below 1 ppb as a result of remediation strategies, which included running water for 30 seconds and then testing all faucets several times for lead.
In Limestone, initial results showed that 25 of the school’s 37 faucets tested either well above Maine’s 4 parts per billion limit for lead in drinking water or the Environmental Protection Agency’s 15 parts per billion. Follow-up tests conducted in August revealed that only seven faucets now fall in between the 4 and 15 ppb recommendations.
Last week, Limestone’s school committee urged officials to begin a plan for remediating the faucets that are still testing higher lead levels.
Dobbins was unavailable for comment on Monday.