School District 8 says drinking water in five Nelson schools as well as in Creston, Salmo and Winlaw schools exceeds the maximum allowed lead content.
In a Jan. 15 statement, the district said testing in December found levels were above the limit of 0.005 milligrams per litre as stipulated by the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality in 14 fountains.
The fountains are located at Nelson’s Hume School, Rosemont Elementary, South Nelson Elementary, Trafalgar Middle School and L.V. Rogers Secondary, as well as Salmo Elementary School, Winlaw Elementary and Creston’s Prince Charles Secondary.
Russell Warwick, the district’s health, wellness and safety officer, told the Star the last water testing was completed in 2016. Since then, Health Canada halved the limit of acceptable lead concentrate from 0.01 mg/L to the current 0.005, or five parts per billion.
“Generally a lot of these cases what we were finding is the samples we took and the results we got were the most aggressive worst-case scenario,” said Warwick.
“So we let water stagnate in the pipes overnight, over the weekend. We were taking these samples [with] the worst possible buildup you could have.”
Lead was used in plumbing for B.C. buildings constructed prior to 1989, according to Health Canada.
Warwick said the district is turning off and removing some of the fountains, while others are being flushed in the morning ahead of being replaced.
Interior Health medical officer Karin Goodison said in a statement she couldn’t comment on the specific risks for students exposed to lead, but also downplayed any concerns parents might have about their children’s health.
The impact of lead, she said, depends on factors including amount consumed over time, age, nutrition and other health issues. Drinking water from school fountains with minimal amounts of lead, Goodison added, would not pose a health risk.
“There is no evidence that drinking water in B.C. is a significant source of lead intake,” she said. “Anyone concerned about current or past exposure to lead for themselves or their child should discuss those concerns with their local health care provider.”