LEAD IN DRINKING WATER: OVERVIEW OF ATLANTIC CANADA SCHOOL BOARDS
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by Cori Marshall
Lead in drinking water is a serious issue, and when it is found in our institutions of learning it is even more concerning. WaterToday has reported substantially on the issue. We have looked into how our cities have addressed the issue in their respective delivery systems, how the federal government is treating it, and have reported on problems where tests have found concentrations of lead in the water.
According to Health Canada's (HC) document Lead in Drinking Water "lead is commonly found in the environment, both naturally and as a result of human activity." Further, "food and drinking water are now the primary sources of lead exposure."
Lead is carcinogenic, and studies have documented effects of "reduced cognition, increased blood pressure and renal dysfunction in adults." The impacts on children are more profound than found in adults, and according to the HC document include "neurodevelopmental and behavioural effects."
"The threshold below which lead is no longer associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects cannot be identified."
Lead in Drinking Water, Health Canada
We reached out to school boards and commissions in Atlantic Canada to gain a better understanding and present the bigger picture of the issue of lead in school drinking water.
We received a wide range of responses, in some areas our questions fell under provincial privacy acts, while other school boards publish the testing data on their website. For the most part what we found from the responses we did receive is that the situation seems to be positive.
Nova Scotia's South Shore Regional School Board (SSRSB) oversees 21 schools. Theresa Schroder informed us that the school board "tests every three months for a number of water safety contaminants," including for lead. To date "there has been no indication of lead above recommended levels at any of our schools," Schroder added.
The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board (AVRSB) is very transparent about the water test results for their schools and publishes test results on their website. Kristen Loyst, Communications for the AVRSB, said that "test results are within Health Canada drinking water guidelines."
Geneviève Mallet-Chiasson, Communications Officer for New Brunswick Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development, said that "there are 295 schools in the province, [and] because of water treatment and monitoring no school has too much lead in its drinking water."
The province has had issues in the past with this contaminant, "for a variety of reasons, including ageing infrastructure and the nature of source water, about 27% (86 of 314 schools) had problems," Mallet-Chiasson explained.
"Twenty-seven water treatment systems were installed in twenty-five schools across the province as part of a program to reduce lead in drinking water in schools."
Geneviève Mallet-Chiasson, Communications Officer for New Brunswick Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development
The Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP), a Francophone school board in Nova Scotia, posts sample testing data on their website, and in some cases display records going back as far as 2014.
Marie-Andrée Laflamme, the Communications Coordinator for the CSAP, said that "following the June 2017 chemical analysis of our schools, our results show that our schools are below laboratory detection limits (<4 or <0.5 ug/L) and therefore well below 10 ug/L."
Laflamme explained that "every morning we ask our concierges to flush the drinking water troughs for one minute, even if the school is a new construction," and the flushing must be confirmed.
This is not an exhaustive look at the school boards in Atlantic Canada, though it is clear from the responses we did receive that lead in drinking water is being taken seriously. School boards in Atlantic Canada have strict protocols for maintenance and testing to ensure those attending these establishments have access to safe water.
Stay with us as we continue our look at lead in school drinking water next as we look at school boards in Québec.