PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. – Residents in Prince Rupert, B.C., are concerned about the safety of their drinking water after elevated levels of lead were found in four schools, said North Coast New Democrat member of the legislature Jennifer Rice.
School district officials in the city warned parents after tests of drinking water showed lead concentrations above Health Canada guidelines.
Rice said Wednesday residents are now worried about the extent of the problem.
“There’s a lot of concern, such as how long has this been going on?” she said. “What are the effects to my child?”
Health Minister Terry Lake said the government is aware of the issue and is taking action. School water lines are being flushed every morning and filters are being installed on water fountains.
A letter to parents from Prince Rupert’s School District 52 said steps are being taken to address possible health concerns related to lead exposure.
“Flushing programs are shown to be effective in decreasing lead levels at the tap,” stated the letter to parents. “School District 52 has purchased and is installing new filtered water fountains tested and shown to effectively remove lead.”
The letter stated lead in pipes and the plumbing components “have been identified as the source of elevated lead levels.”
Exact levels haven’t been released, but the district has traced the source to lead pipes at Conrad Elementary, Pineridge Elementary, Ecole Roosevelt Park Community School and Prince Rupert Middle School.
Lead can affect growth and development in children.
Rice said concern in Prince Rupert has spread beyond the four schools because the community has many old homes and buildings, where lead could also be a problem.
“The big question is what are we going to do in the long term?” she said. “Prince Rupert has the oldest housing stock in the province. This is only addressing the schools. We don’t known about our homes.”
Rice said she’s also concerned that broader water warnings have not been issued in Prince Rupert, considering the impacts elevated lead levels could have on young children and pregnant mothers.
The school district letter advises families to flush the taps in their homes every morning.