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Manganese in Gill Elementary well water causes DEP concern

GILL — Like most things, too much manganese can be bad for you, as can too little manganese. The naturally occurring mineral is found in vitamin supplements and, apparently, in the Gill Elementary School drinking water in what the Department of Environmental Protection deems elevated levels.

The town is required to notify water users and draft a plan to address the problem.

The DEP recently began requiring municipalities to test for the naturally occurring mineral in public water supplies, said town Administrative Assistant Ray Purington.

Purington said the town-owned Gill Elementary School well is Gill’s only water supply large enough to meet the testing threshold, and it has tested at the third of four tiers of dangerousness established by the DEP.

The DEP letter states that manganese levels in the well were found to average .345 milligrams per liter, above what the DEP considers a safe level of .3 mg/L.

“MassDEP recommends that people drink water with manganese levels less than .30 mg/L over a lifetime and also recommends that people limit their consumption of water with levels over 1.0 mg/L, primarily to decrease the possibility of adverse neurological effects,” reads the letter, in part. The letter cautions against giving the water to infants under 1, as water or in formula.

The town is required to continue monitoring for manganese quarterly and submit a plan to bring the manganese level below .3 mg/L. Purington said the plan will most likely involve filtration. The DEP requires that the plan also include discussion of the possibilities of drawing water from another source or blending the elevated-level water with lower-level water. Purington said it is his sense that a filtration system would be cheaper than drilling a new well, probably under $10,000, and a new well would be held to a much higher standard for manganese. On the other hand, filtration would be a continuing concern, with filters needing replacement.

Levels above .05 mg/L cause aesthetic concerns including bad taste, dark cloudy water and staining of fixtures, according to the DEP.

“It’s the water that is used throughout the building. I know that there are certain families that send their kids to school with water bottles,” Purington said.

The letter records a June meeting between the DEP Drinking Water Program and town, and requires the town to notify water users — parents, staff and students — of the elevated manganese levels within 30 days, and continue to do so quarterly until levels are consistently below .3 mg/L.

According to an attached fact sheet, reactions to elevated levels of manganese are highly variable between individuals, and infants and children under 12 are most susceptible. The .3 mg/L and 1 mg/L benchmarks were set based on standard dietary requirements and do not mean that intake above these levels will necessarily cause health problems, according to the DEP, but consumption should be limited as a precaution. Bathing, hand-washing and tooth brushing with water containing elevated manganese levels is safe and pregnant or breast feeding mothers should not be concerned.

Further guidelines and answers to frequently asked questions exist online at

www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/manganese-in-drinking-water.html.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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