School District 83 is looking to install water bottle refill stations, similar to the one pictured, in North Okanagan-Shuswap schools. (File photo)

School District #83 working to meet standards for lead in drinking water

Water bottle refill stations, additional filtration being added to North Okanagan-Shuswap schools

School District 83 said it is working hard to meet new Health Canada standards for lead in drinking water at North Okanagan-Shuswap schools.

On Jan. 16, the school district put out a media release reporting some school water fountains now have signs posted to them, asking people to run the fountains for one minute prior to drinking. Other fountains are now blocked off, and some taps have been labelled “not potable water.”

The school district reports these steps were taken in response to Health Canada standards, in which the allowable lead content in drinking water was recently decreased from .01 milligrams to .005 milligrams per litre.

SD83 facilities and grounds manager Glynn Warnica said staff have about one-third of the schools now meeting the new standard, with the rest to be addressed over the next few weeks.

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Warnica explained how previously the provincial policy required testing on a three-year cycle, with the first test done on water that has sat overnight, and a second on water that has been run for 60 seconds.

“With the new standard, if the water has greater than the .005 mg/L of lead when it sits overnight, but is lower than the .005 mg/L after the water has been run for 60 seconds, a sign will be posted to tell users to run the water for a minimum of 60 seconds before drinking,” said the SD83 release. “If the water fails the second test, further mitigation is necessary.”

Warnica said testing failure is often attributed to lead in the fixture or the solder at the fixture.

“To fix this, the district would need to change every fixture at every affected school and hope there is no lead in the solder joints in pipes leading to the tap.”

As this would be a large expense, the school district is putting water bottle filling stations in schools and adding additional filtration in school kitchens.

“For example, at Highland Park, several water fountains were deactivated and two water bottle filling stations been installed.”

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