STOW — The water fountains have either been turned off, wrapped in plastic, or fitted with a device to prevent students from using them. Much of the food preparation has moved off campus, and a water jug sits in the kitchen sink, replacing the faucet. The bathrooms are covered with signs that warn students in bold, red letters: “DO NOT DRINK FROM THE SINK.”
Just before school started last month, district officials here alerted parents and staff about a “water situation” at The Center School, and the nearby Hale Middle School. A new, targeted testing program by the state Department of Environmental Protection had found that the water at both schools had significant amounts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals known as PFAS, which have been linked to kidney cancer, low-infant birth weights, and a range of other diseases.
The Nashoba Regional School District was the first public water system to be tested under the new program, suggesting that the toxic chemicals may be far more prevalent in drinking water than has been understood.
Get Metro Headlines in your inboxThe 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
“I would hazard a guess that virtually every town in Massachusetts has detectable levels, some of them higher than this,” said Kyla Bennett, a former scientist at the US Environmental Protection Agency who now serves as director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in New England, an advocacy group."