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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Advisory of the Day



In early February five schools in the British Columbia interior tested for high concentrations of lead in the drinking water. Reports by the CBC stated that all water sources have been sampled and had been sent to the lab for testing. What has happened in the two weeks since the positive tests first appeared in the news?

We approached the B.C. Ministry of Education to ascertain whether there were plans to implement any additional measures in the wake of the positive lead tests. According to the ministry's statement, "school districts have always had a duty to provide safe drinking water to students." Further the ministry states that "as of last year, school districts are now required to test for lead in pre-1990 facilities and share their results with the ministry by March 30 every year", this was done after similar test results found lead in a Surrey school.

The Ministry of Education spelled out what the responsibility of the districts are in cases like this, "Where elevated lead levels are found, districts must mitigate the harm by flushing or disabling the water source and communicate the results to parents, students, staff and the Ministry." In addition, the statement points out that none of the school water issues indicate wide spread problems, "most elevated lead levels found by districts were isolated incidents - such as one fountain, or a part of a school."

The ministry aids education facilities in providing safe drinking water, "we provide school districts with $110 million in Annual Facilities Grants that can help with this type of testing." Government programs and school districts are being proactive on this issue. According to the statement there is a program in place to help avoid the type of test results that occurred in the interior schools, the Ministry of Education "also provided School Enhancement Program funding to upgrade plumbing lines and fixtures in 122 schools."

The ministry statement also spoke to an important positive point, "The Provincial Health Officer has noted we have no evidence of children being adversely affected by lead in drinking water in B.C." The measures and programs in place have protected the students from any change in the water quality in the schools.

The Vavenby Elementary school and those located in Kamloops are separate by 150 km. Both communities draw their drinking water from North Thompson river. The four schools located in Kamloops are spread across the city.

One of the schools effected was Vavenby Elementary. We contacted the Manager of Utility Services in Vavenby, Jake Devlin, to gain some insight on the water system in the area. In our conversation, Devlin pointed out that the water system in Vavenby is "owned and operated by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District". According to Devlin "all fixtures [at the point of entry] are simple curb stop valves."

Devlin also stated that the district is aware of the "school doing tests on its drinking water, but TNRD tests the water regularly and there is nothing in the most recent test" to indicate an abnormal presence of lead. Per Devlin any presence of lead in the school drinking water "has to do with the fixtures inside the school."

Health Canada set the acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water at 0.010 mg/L. The most recent tests results for Vavenby drinking water indicate that the concentration of total lead was 0.0009 mg/L, well within the Health Canada limit. According to the Health Canada Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality the most common sources of lead is it "leaching from plumbing."

Vavenby was under a Do Not Use Order between January 18 and 25 due to a diesel spill in the North Thompson River.

A document, Lead In Drinking Water, prepared by Health Canada for public consultations points to serious health risks in both adults and children. The document states that the effects of lead "include reduced cognition, increased blood pressure, and renal dysfunction in adults as well as adverse neurodevelopmental and behavioural effects in children." Water is now one of the primary sources of lead exposure.

Its is interesting to note that Vavenby was under a Do Not Use Order, between January 18 and 25 due to a diesel spill in the North Thompson River.

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