Following reports of high lead levels in school drinking water across the country, Central Okanagan Public School Secretary-Treasurer Ryan Stierman sent a letter to board education members to explain what the district is doing to address the problem.
The issue arose in November when Concordia’s Institute for Investigate Journalism found over 40 per cent of public schools in B.C. – including several Central Okanagan public schools – had higher lead concentration rates in their tap water than a new Health Canada threshold limit set in March of 2019 allowed for.
In the letter, Stierman said Central Okanagan Public Schools had tested one-third of all its sites annually for lead concentration in school tap water in accordance with a Health Canada Protocol. All schools tested since 2016 met current national standards and guidelines.
Moving forward, Stierman said the school will continue to test one-third of its sites annually for lead levels in water and submit its results to the Ministry of Education. The next reported period to the ministry for lead levels in tap water is March 30, 2020.
“We’ve taken mitigation efforts for any Central Okanagan schools that have had older fountains,” said Kevin Kaardal, Superintendent of Central Okanagan Schools.
“We’ve also begun a regular flushing process to flush water through our systems so it can’t sit for a longer period of time. That also helps to mitigate any lead particulates in the drinking water.”
B.C Ministry of Education also sent a letter to all school superintendents about this issue in 2016, which stated creating a long-term management plan, updating older water infrastructure and communicating findings could help to lower the lead-water risk in local schools.
Five parts per billion (ppb) is the maximum acceptable limit for lead concentration in drinking water, according to Health Canada.