Water in all School District 72 schools is safe, despite a recent national investigative report as the report does not account for mitigation efforts that have occurred since the test results were taken.
The national investigative report that revealed high concentrations of lead in several schools across Canada considered test results from between 2016 and 2019. It also applied new Health Canada recommendations that were changed in March 2019 from 10ppb to 5 ppb as the maximum acceptable limit for lead concentration in drinking water.
Since 2016, the district’s health and safety department has conducted water testing annually on all School District 72 schools and facilities on a three-year cycle. The Ministry of Education requires that all schools have their water tested by December 2019, a target which the district is well on track to meet.
The national investigative report found that School District 72 had five schools that tested at various percentages above the new threshold. The highest was Discovery Passage School at a threshold of 100 percent based on testing done in March of 2016; the school was closed later that same year in September 2016.
The school district uses the Random Daytime (RDT) sampling protocol recommended by the Vancouver Island Health Authority to capture typical exposures including potential exposure to particulate lead. All results are reported to the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Ministry of Education, as well as to the Board of Education at a public board meeting.
Discovery Passage School’s random sampling and cited result was from the sink in one classroom. Other schools cited on the report were École Phoenix Middle School, Pinecrest Elementary, Carihi Secondary and Surge Narrows School.
École Phoenix Middle School, Carihi Secondary and Pinecrest Elementary schools have all had water fountains that were identified to be above public health regulations for lead taken out of commission and replaced with bottle fillers. As standard practice, the district performed another set of tests as soon as the new bottle fillers were installed to ensure that it had remedied the concern and all tested well below the threshold.
With respect to Surge Narrows School, the district is questioning the results cited in the investigative report, as the school had five random samplings done in May 2016 and all came back within the threshold.
“The health and safety of students and staff is always our top priority and that includes ensuring that every aspect of our learning environment, right down to the water students and staff drink, is clean and safe,” states Dr. Jeremy Morrow, Superintendent of Schools. “Our testing, maintenance and mitigation efforts ensure that we take quick action to remedy any areas of concern and we are happy to work with, and comply with, any and all guidelines from the Health Authority.”