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GROTON — After wrestling for years with water-quality complications at its $35 million high school, the administration of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District reported earlier this month that a new problem with the school’s water-treatment plant forced a shutdown of the system.

According to an official announcement by the district, a malfunction in the water-treatment system at the high school forced a shutdown on Nov. 23. The problem was caused after an electrical failure left a high level of treatment chemicals, including sodium carbonate and liquid phosphate, resting in the drinking water.

The chemicals are commonly used to treat water, and small trace amounts are commonly present at all times. Ingestion by humans is not immediately harmful.

However, enough of the chemicals was released into the school’s water system to prompt Small Water System Services, the contractor hired to oversee the high school’s water system, to shut down operations until the problem could be identified and fixed.

Small Water System representative Deborah Trumbull called in the state Department of Environmental Protection on the issue, and plans were made to add more safety features to the school’s treatment system to prevent future problems.

The high school’s problem with its water system was not a new one for district officials, who struggled for years to solve issues of contamination that were only recently settled.

Since the summer of 2004, students were unable to drink the water at the district’s new high school when it was learned that lead and copper levels exceeded standards for safety. As a result, at a cost of thousands of dollars a year, bottled water was trucked into the facility for use by students and cafeteria staff.

For that reason, the latest news elicited some impatience in members of the School Committee last week when Superintendent Alan Genovese submitted an update on the latest water problem.

“This problem seems to go on and on and on,” remarked Berta Erickson at the committee’s meeting of Dec. 16. “It’s getting old.”

The problem, replied Genovese, would not take long to fix once it was definitely identified. The superintendent told committee members that a certain amount of soda ash used to combat contamination was caught in the water system when the pumps were turned off and needed to be flushed out.

“That won’t happen again,” assured Genovese.

In the meantime, the system continues to be monitored and water samples sent out to be tested with results expected back by Dec. 18.

School Committee members however did receive some good news last week.

Kristen Stone, a representative of the Groton-Dunstable Education Foundation (GDEF), announced the latest round of grants given to the district’s schools by her organization.

Totaling more than $4,200, the 13th round of awards represented a dozen individual grants of under $500 each, covering everything from classroom instruction to special- educational programs. The grants indicate the group’s continuing effort to raise funds for use by the district to cover the expense of any number of programs, projects and supplies needed by students at a time of increasing financial concern for the district.

To learn more about GDEF and its fundraising efforts, check out the group at