Politicians in the Alberta legislature squared off Thursday over the lack of mandatory lead testing in schools and daycares in the province.
The comments during question period came after a series of investigative stories by Global News, The Toronto Star, MacEwan University and Mount Royal University on the dangers of lead in drinking water.
The investigation revealed that schools in the province are not required to test their drinking water, and despite internal memos and documents from the province suggesting a provincial approach is needed to assess and reduce lead exposure for infants and young children, no provincial program has been established.
Elk Island Public Schools took the initiative in 2016 to test its schools and found that 22 out of 41 schools had a sample that tested over the Health Canada guideline of five parts per billion.
The investigation also found that, according to a never before released pilot study, more than 10 per cent of 150 daycares in Alberta that were tested in 2017 exceeded the recommended limit.
“It’s unacceptable that our government will allow our children to be exposed to lead” NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt asked during question period. “To the minister, what action will you take today to stop kids from being poisoned by the lead in the drinking water in their daycare?”
In response, Health Minister Tyler Shandro reiterated that Alberta Health Services is prepared to support school boards with testing and mitigation.
Schmidt then pressed the UCP on what is being done to prevent children from being exposed to lead in the drinking water at school.
“Of course we’re very, very concerned about this issue and concerned about the water our children are drinking,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said.
“School boards and municipalities are the ones that are testing and monitoring and maintaining water supplies.”
Schmidt then said the UCP has “handicapped municipalities and school boards” by cutting their infrastructure grants and “denying any funding” to fix the issue of lead in school drinking water.
Shandro again reiterated that AHS can provide schools with supports and mitigation strategies.