Concerns over elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water of Victoria public schools last year has led the Greater Victoria School District to install new water fountains, bottle fillers and in-line filtration systems in all of its schools.
The province mandated lead testing in all schools in 2016, and after initial testing the Board of Education decided it was alarming enough to spend $200,000 on new filtration systems.
These new filters helped reduce lead concentrations, but some schools still showed elevated traces in last year’s annual testing, according to a release from SD61.
It was determined that stagnant water sitting in the pipes for extended periods of time in the older water fountain pipes was causing the elevated traces of lead.
“While most of the water fountains indicated safe lead levels after running for 15 seconds, the Board of Education felt filtered water should be immediate,” said board chair Edith Loring-Kuhanga.
“Now, with the combination of new filtration systems and fixtures, we are very optimistic there will be a significant improvement in the schools’ water quality,” she added. “It definitely brings a peace of mind knowing that students and staff will have safer drinking water.”
School district staff have spent the past eight months removing old water fountains, installing new fountains and bringing in centralized bottle fillers.
Every school in SD61 now has new water fountains and a minimum of one bottle filler.
In total, the school district said nearly 230 water fixtures and more than 40 new pre-filtration systems have been added for approximately $850,000.
Annual tests will continue at one-third of the district sites to ensure that their drinking water complies with Health Canada Guidelines. Federal guidelines for lead in drinking water states that the maximum acceptable lead concentration is 0.010mg/L (10ppb). The new tests will begin in the fall.