Solution to school radon goes to voters

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The presence of radon in tap water is always a concern. That concern is ramped up when the hazardous gas is present in public drinking water.

That has been the case with the drinking water at Songo Locks School (SLS).

This has been no secret to students and staff there. Inside the school, the water fountains are disabled and about half a dozen Poland Spring® dispensers supply the drinking water.

Now, there is a long-term solution on the horizon: The construction of a 4,000-gallon holding tank that would allow the radon to disperse from the H2O before it is used in the elementary school.

According to Andy Madura, the director of transportation, facilities and food services for School Administrative District (SAD) 61, a low-interest loan would allow the district to engineer and build such a water storage unit.

In order for the project to go forward, all four towns in the school district must approve the specific referendum at the polls on Tuesday, May 20, Madura said.

Even though SLS is located in Naples, all towns in SAD 61 must okay the loan for the infrastructure: A radon-dispersing water storage unit, he said.

Madura applied for the loan and grant money through the Maine Drinking Water Program, which is operated by the Maine Division of Environmental Health. That government agency is a division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s a revolving loan. They would grant part of it,” Madura said.

“It was a very competitive grant. Only 25 projects in the state were approved; and, Songo Locks School got approved,” he said.

“It’s a very low interest loan for 20 years. The interest is incredibly low, like 1% — an interest rate you couldn’t get from a regular bank,” he said.

The cost of the project is $135,000, with a portion of that money going toward engineer’s sketches.

The water storage unit would hold 4,000 gallons, which is the daily usage at the school.

“No matter what happens we would have enough water to run the school every day,” Madura said.

That water usage peaks between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. when the cafeteria is in operation and additional handwashing is taking place, he said.

About five years ago, radon was discovered in the school’s well. At that time, a second well was drilled.

Unfortunately, not only was the water yield below the usage level inside the school; but also, testing showed that radon was present in the new well, Madura said.

He said that he does frequent testing of the school’s water — not just for radon, but also for copper, uranium, and E Coli.

Since the beginning of the school year, the drinking water has been off limits.

Luckily, the parent of a student works for Hannaford Supermarket and that person coordinated some donations of H2O.

“We’ve had several donations of bottled water from Hannaford. We ended up with several pallets of bottled water from that business,” Madura said.

“It was great, it helped us out,” he said.

Now, the district purchases water cooler jugs from the Poland Spring® company.

“We have been doing this since the first day of school,” he said.



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