Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district is working on mitigation procedures after testing at schools revealed lead in drinking water, including two schools in town.
The B.C. Ministry of Education has mandated water testing in schools built before 1990 and the district hired Tetra Tech Engineering to examine schools, including Ladysmith Intermediate School, Ladysmith Primary School and Ecole North Oyster, among a host of other schools in Nanaimo.
Testing took place in December, with water samples taken and lines flushed out.
Brian Hackwood, manager of maintenance, told the district business committee all facilities had samples with a lead count above the acceptable 10 micrograms per litre upon first sample, but it decreased as faucets ran.
“Fifty-nine per cent of all the taps we did passed, so that’s [where] you turn the tap, you got your little jar underneath, you take the water, you sample it, the lead content wasn’t above Canada’s safe drinking guidelines,” said Hackwood. “Ninety-eight per cent of them cleared within two minutes.”
A staff report indicated 20 samples were done at Ladysmith Intermediate with seven failing after seven minutes and one failing after two minutes.
At the local primary school, 18 samples were taken and two failed after 30 seconds.
Nanaimo’s John Barsby Secondary School fared worse with two samples failing after five minutes of water running and Nanaimo District Secondary had one sample that failed after that time.
North Oyster had no samples that failed at 30 seconds or longer.
Signage has been placed at tested facilities, and will be placed at yet-to-be tested sites.
In an e-mail, Dale Burgos, district spokesman, said mitigation work is expected to be completed by the end of April.
In the case of Ladysmith Intermediate, a faucet will be replaced and two new drinking fountains added along with 11 auto flush valves in sinks.
At Ladysmith Primary, engineers have recommended to install nine auto flush valves.
Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health medical health officer, said running the water has been recommended for years and it’s part of procedures at most schools.
“I think that this is just a reassurance that this is an issue that’s being looked at … we’ll work with the school districts and we’ll continue to work towards mitigating this. We haven’t seen evidence of lead poisoning amongst students and there’s nothing different here than what has been in place for probably several decades, because these are older schools,” said Hasselback when asked if there is reason for concern.
One-third of district schools must be tested annually, as per provincial requirements. For more information, please visit the school district’s website at www.sd68.bc.ca.
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