3 area schools fail test for lead con­tent in wa­ter

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA MEL­DRUM

One Tim­mins school is on a list of hun­dreds of in­sti­tu­tions that failed tests for lead in stand­ing wa­ter.

Golden Av­enue Pub­lic School failed one test May 17, 2016 with a re­sult of 70.5 parts per bil­lion (PPB).

École catholique Ge­orges­vanier in Smooth Rock Falls failed 11 days later with 11.1.

St. Pa­trick School in Ka­puskas­ing also regis­tered with one failed test at 10 PPB in June 2016.

The Toronto Star pub­lished its in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Friday, not­ing that 640 in­sti­tu­tions failed to meet the pro­vin­cial stan­dard of 10 parts per bil­lion in the past two years.

Doug Shearer, chair­man of the board of trustees for District School Board On­tario North East, told The Daily Press Tues­day that a school fail­ing a lead test is “con­cern­ing.”

“Cer­tainly, it’s con­cern­ing to the point where we’re look­ing at what we need to do for cor­rec­tive ac­tion if it con­tin­ues to go on,” he said.

“The process is to daily flush the taps and test the wa­ter after they’ve been flushed. If they still fail, there’s a bag put on the foun­tain or wher­ever the wa­ter tap is, and it’s taken out of ser­vice un­til it can be checked again and any changes made to bring the lev­els back to nor­mal.”

Shearer couldn’t say whether ag­ing pipes at Golden Av­enue Pub­lic School were in need of re­plac­ing to solve the prob­lem, nor was he able to pro­vide data re­gard­ing past suc­cess­ful tests be­cause the staff mem­ber in charge was away.

He made the dis­tinc­tion be­tween flushed and stand­ing wa­ter.

“There are other schools where the morn­ing tests didn’t pass, nec­es­sar­ily, be­cause of stand- ing wa­ter, and once they’ve been flushed, they’re fine,” he said.

Shearer said ad­vis­ing par­ents after a failed lead test “isn’t nec­es­sar­ily some­thing” the board would do.

“The re­port, it showed across the province there are 640 schools where the test­ing doesn’t al­ways pass. We try to cor­rect the prob­lem im­me­di­ately, and we take pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures.”

The front page of DSBONE’S web­site does in­clude in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing drink­ing wa­ter test­ing for lead con­tent.

Tanya Mus­grave, a pub­lic health in­spec­tor with the Por­cu­pine Health Unit, said chil­dren are most vul­ner­a­ble to long-term ex­po­sure of lead.

She said symp­toms can in­clude headaches, ir­ri­tabil­ity, ab­dom­i­nal pain, vom­it­ing, and after a pro­longed ex­po­sure, neu­ro­log­i­cal ef­fects. She also said older build­ings have lead plumb­ing.

“Of­ten times, these lev­els can be greatly re­duced due to flush­ing of the lines.”

Mus­grave said hav­ing an ex­cee­dence (a test ex­ceed­ing 10 parts per bil­lion or 10 mi­cro­grams per litre) is “not that com­mon.”

“When we re­spond to lead ex­cee­dences, the school boards are re­quired to call us whether it be a stand­ing sam­ple ex­cee­dence or a flushed sam­ple ex­cee­dence,” said Mus­grave.

“Of­ten times, these lev­els can be greatly re­duced due to flush­ing of the lines.”

The health in­spec­tor said it’s im­por­tant to re­al­ize that “stand­ing wa­ter leeches the lead out of the plumb­ing and the solder and so on.

“If it’s sit­ting there, ob­vi­ously con­cen­tra­tions will be higher than once it’s flushed.”

A re­lease pub­lished by the Gov­ern­ment of On­tario the same day as the lead results stated that the province’s “drink­ing wa­ter con­tin­ues to be among the best pro­tected in the world.”

The re­lease noted that 98% of flushed test sam­ples from schools and day­cares met the province’s stan­dard for lead in drink­ing wa­ter.

Cer­tainly, it’s con­cern­ing to the point where we’re look­ing at what we need to do for cor­rec­tive ac­tion if it con­tin­ues to go on.” Doug Shearer

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