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Schools facing lead-in-water problems get money for upgrades

Two capital region schools are among six around B.C. that will have work done to reduce levels of lead in water.
Drinking fountain - generic photo

Two capital region schools are among six around B.C. that will have work done to reduce levels of lead in water.

École Sundance Elementary, a Greater Victoria school district site under lease by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, and the Saanich school district’s Children’s Development Centre will be part of a $750,000 effort funded by the provincial School Enhancement Program.

Work is also coming up at École des Sept-sommets in Rossland, Lake City Secondary School’s Columneetza Campus in Williams Lake, Mountview Elementary School in Williams Lake and Naghtaneqed Elementary/Junior Secondary School in Nemiah Valley.

Plumbing upgrades and other measures are planned, the province said. The projects are scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2018.

Steps are being taken because tests found elevated lead levels in water at a number of B.C. schools. Schools with lead concerns routinely flush their pipes or shut down parts of the system, the province said. The provincial health officer has said no evidence has been found of lead levels in drinking water that would harm students.

The funding for the work is over and above $6.5 million put into school lead issues around B.C. since 2016.

“Kids should be able to get a drink of clean, healthy water from water fountains at school. Now students at these schools will be able to do that,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement. “My goal is to have every student in B.C. attend a healthy and safe school, and this is another step toward achieving that goal.

“We know we have much more work to do and that is why we are accelerating capital investments throughout B.C.”

Health Canada says that exposure to lead can cause behavioural problems and learning disabilities in children.

In September, the Greater Victoria school district said its own $200,000 project to install filters as a means of lowering lead content had been a success after one year.

Filtration devices were installed on virtually every potable water source in the district.

The Saanich school district has installed auto-flushing devices at all pre-1990 schools, while testing of pre-1990 schools in the Sooke school district through 2016 found an issue at only the former Metchosin Elementary School.

Lead in school water has been raising concerns in the education system since February 2016 when levels exceeding national guidelines were found at four Prince Rupert schools. That was followed by the determination in March 2016 that the legislative office of former Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington was 5.5 times the safe level for lead.