Time to open the flood­gates

Tory MLA wants govern­ment to make school wa­ter test re­sults avail­able to the pub­lic

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD

Op­po­si­tion MLAs are call­ing on the prov­ince to open the flood­gates on the re­sults of wa­ter tests within P.E.I. schools.

Rus­tico-Emer­ald MLA and en­vi­ron­ment critic Brad Trivers said the prov­ince should be re­leas­ing the data fol­low­ing a de­layed time­line re­gard­ing a wa­ter qual­ity is­sue in Rus­tico’s École Saint-Au­gustin.

Last June, a test at the fiveyear-old school showed ura­nium, ar­senic and sodium at lev­els above what’s con­sid­ered safe for drink­ing.

Staff and stu­dents at the school have been drink­ing bot­tled wa­ter since then while the Education Depart­ment and French Lan­guage School Board work on in­stalling a wa­ter fil­tra­tion sys­tem.

“I do be­lieve the depart­ment is try­ing to fix the is­sue, but they have been a lit­tle lax on the ur­gency of it. Six months is too long,” said Trivers.

“Par­ents have just been deal­ing

“I do be­lieve the depart­ment is try­ing to fix the is­sue, but they have been a lit­tle lax on the ur­gency of it. Six months is too long.”

with it. There are two rea­sons for that. One is the govern­ment said they’re fix­ing it so they didn’t com­plain. The se­cond thing is that I don’t think all par­ents were nec­es­sar­ily aware of what’s go­ing on.”

Brad Samson, di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate ser­vices for the French Lan­guage School Board, said there was no “quick fix” for the sit­u­a­tion.

“We’d love for things to go much faster, but there are cer­tain tests and con­trols in place that re­quire time,” he said.

“We are sat­is­fied it’s be­ing dealt with as ex­pe­di­tiously as pos­si­ble.”

While there was a de­lay in parts ar­riv­ing for the fil­tra­tion sys­tem, Samson said those should be in within a week.

He said the sys­tem should be in­stalled within about two weeks.

“Then we’ll have to make sure it is func­tion­ing prop­erly and we’ll have to run tests on the wa­ter be­fore we take out the bot­tled wa­ter,” he said.

“We be­lieve ev­ery­one in­volved is putting in their best ef­fort to have the sit­u­a­tion re­turned to nor­mal. For the stu­dents them­selves, we are still sup­ply­ing bot­tled wa­ter and mak­ing sure they do have safe drink­ing wa­ter avail­able.”

École Saint-Au­gustin is the se­cond Is­land school in the past sev­eral months to have wa­ter qual­ity is­sues.

In the fall, stu­dents at Som­er­set El­e­men­tary School in Kinkora had to drink bot­tled wa­ter for sev­eral weeks.

That in­ci­dent prompted op­po­si­tion mem­bers to call for the re­lease of all wa­ter test re­sults, which Trivers said the govern­ment has re­leased on a “need to know” ba­sis in re­cent years.

MLA Brad Trivers

“(Af­ter the elec­tion) we were hop­ing we’d see a change in this with a de­fault of ‘let’s make it all avail­able.’ I think they’re fight­ing that within the govern­ment,” said Trivers.

“I think it’s a top down thing and it’s re­ally an at­ti­tude change that has to hap­pen.”

While Trivers ac­knowl­edged all in­fra­struc­ture needs on­go­ing main­te­nance and oc­ca­sional re­pairs, he said it was im­por­tant to pub­lish wa­ter test re­sults to keep par­ents in­formed.

“Then, if they have ques­tions about what it’s like they can go on­line and see the re­sults, in­stead of hear­ing about it through the grapevine,” he said.

Pub­lish­ing the data in an open way would also al­low res­i­dents to an­a­lyze it in look­ing for trends, he said.

For ex­am­ple, Trivers said if ev­ery school’s wa­ter qual­ity tests were pub­lic it may show trends of which ar­eas are most af­fected and which schools may need to be ad­dressed in the fu­ture.

The depart­ment has said it is ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of post­ing those re­sults on­line.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Kate Lowe pumps wa­ter for Mary Soucy and An­drew Hrickyw at Ecole St. Au­gustin. The school goes through over 200 wa­ter bot­tles ev­ery three weeks from five wa­ter sta­tions through­out the school.

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