After elevated lead levels were found in the water at some north Okanagan schools, the Vernon School District is reassuring parents that the necessary precautions to keep students safe are in place and water at schools is healthy to drink.
School days at five north Okanagan schools now start with staff flushing the water lines for at least two minutes.
The new procedure was put in place after tests found elevated lead levels in water that had been sitting in the system.
Once pipes were flushed, the lead levels dropped to within recommended concentrations.
That means students are still free to use water fountains at the impacted schools.
District superintendent Joe Rogers struck a reassurring tone, saying that if the water from the local utility is safe “than it is safe in our schools after we flush for two minutes each morning.”
“We are completely confident we are not putting any students, or teachers or employees at risk,” said Rogers.
However, news of the elevated lead levels found in school water has some wondering how safe the drinking water was at their schools last year.
Interior Health’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Trevor Corneil, said as a parent he wouldn’t be worried because the lead levels found were very close to the maximum allowable concentrations.
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Corneil said maximum allowable concentrations are already set well below the level at which impacts from exposure have been seen.
Beyond flushing school pipes each day, the Vernon School District is working on swapping out plumbing parts that have lead in them as a long-term fix.
The school district says the work to swap out fixtures containing lead will take place throughout the school year. There is no firm timeline on when the work will be completed and no estimate on how much the work is expected to cost.
The spreadsheet below, provided by School District 22, shows the results of tests for lead concentration in school water. The tier one column shows the lead concentrations found in water that had been sitting in the pipes overnight. The tier three column shows the lead concentrations found after water lines were flushed for two minutes. According to a joint statement issued by the school district and Interior Health, “the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality limit the lead content of drinking water to a maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of 0.010 mg/L.”