The Greater Victoria school district expects to have filtration systems installed on all water fountains at local schools by the end of October, in response to tests from June that indicated elevated levels of lead in drinking water at 23 schools.
In a statement, SD61 noted that every school in the district will have new filter systems installed on at least two of the highest use water fountains, as well as in all staff rooms and cooking facilities, before students return to class on Sept. 6. Remaining upgrades will continue on a prioritized basis through September and October.
“When parents and students come to school next Tuesday, where the water fountain has been upgraded or the results of the testing indicate that there’s no issues, it’ll just be business as usual,” said Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer with the school district, noting 150 sinks and fountains have already been upgraded.
“If we haven’t upgraded the fountain yet, they’ll see a sign that says ‘Please do not drink, subject to upgrading.’ As we upgrade them, we’ll just rip the signs off and people will be able to access them again.”
While it was originally thought that most fountains would need to be replaced, Walsh said filtration systems were determined to be a more affordable and effective solution based on the test results by Goode Environmental, an independent environmental consultant. He noted schools with water fountains that have yet to be upgraded will continue to flush their water systems three times per day until they have been installed.
“We’re very confident that we’ve got a solution that’s going to work both in the short and long term,” he said.
“We’ll be doing some more testing as well. We assume some of our older porcelain water fountains we’ll end up replacing, which will be stage two.”
The upgrades remain within the approved budget of $200,000.
For information on the water quality upgrades, as well as the Goode Environmental report and detailed test results for each school, visit sd61.bc.ca.