Lead in Victoria school water fountains now at acceptable levels

2016 water testing showed lead in water fountains prompted new filters in Greater Victoria School District schools

Lead content in Greater Victoria schools is at acceptable levels.

Hundreds of water filters or completely new water bottling stations were installed into schools across the Capital Regional District stemming from concerns in 2016.

“Results that came back last year in May of 2016, they indicated that about half of the tested sites, a little less than half, did raise some concerns,” said Greater Victoria School District Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh. “A little over a year ago the board approved an expenditure of $200,000 to approve the district to immediately remediate water fountains where they may be lead concerns.”

SEE: Water-quality update featuring a list of affected schools

A June 14, 2016 letter to parents and staff of Greater Victoria schools noted the school district was having custodians at schools flushing the water out of the system to reduce sitting water and any settled sediments. Water fountains were not closed, because the district believed that thorough flushing through the day addressed the issue on a temporary basis until the new filters or fountains were installed. Walsh said he hasn’t heard of any students or parents coming forward with problems related to lead ingestion.

“We are not greatly concerned because that practice is what the district has done for many years, so the exposure levels are likely to be fairly minimal,” he said.

Testing stemmed from an initiative from the Ministry of Education following tests yielding concerns with lead levels in another district. Schools in Greater Victoria identified as having concerns included Arbutus Middle School, Braefoot Elementary School, Cedar Hill Middle School, Landsdowne Middle School, Doncaster Elementary among 34 schools and facilities across Greater Victoria. Lead can come from connections on pipes, and potentially from solder for pipes from approximately 1990 and earlier. Much of the water fountain upgrades happened in the summer and fall of 2016.

SEE: The August 29, 2016 press release

“Tiny particles would come out of that and settle at where the water was pushing to, in our case to the edge of the tap,” he said. “School districts that have many new facilities probably aren’t facing this issue, because they don’t have that piping system. At a district that is as mature and old as ours, the vast majority of our sites are pre 1990.”

He said they now test a third of their fountains every year and have already completed collecting their samples in the past few weeks and the results from those test haven’t come out yet. The Greater Victoria School District serves approximately 19,000 students in 27 elementary schools, 10 middle schools and seven secondary schools.

 

New water bottle fountain at L’Ecole Margaret Jenkins Elementary School. (Photo Contributed)

A new water filter at L’Ecole Margaret Jenkins Elementary School. (Photo Contributed)