Schools to flush lead from taps

Kalgoorlie Miner - - NEWS - John Flint

There should be no need to hand out bot­tled wa­ter to stu­dents when WA schools go back next month.

The Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment on Satur­day said six new schools open­ing this year have all been cleared, with the wa­ter qual­ity meet­ing na­tional stan­dards.

It has made sure there was no re­peat of last year’s bu­reau­cratic bun­gle when test­ing for con­tam­i­nants, such as lead, was not com­pleted in time. The fail­ure caused em­bar­rass­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Sue Ellery.

All WA schools have been or­dered to flush their wa­ter out­lets on Fri­day, Fe­bru­ary 1.

Ev­ery tap has to be flushed for three to four min­utes and recorded on a regis­ter, to en­sure the re­moval of stag­nant wa­ter or pos­si­ble con­tam­i­nants.

The di­rec­tive also ap­plies to all res­i­den­tial col­leges, off-site kinder­gartens, com­mu­nity kinder­gartens, ed­u­ca­tion sup­port cen­tres, agri­cul­tural col­leges and be­havioural cen­tres.

The depart­ment said flush­ing could not be done sooner be­cause to be ef­fec­tive it needed to oc­cur within three days of stu­dents re­turn­ing.

The Fed­eral Depart­ment of Health has de­layed the re­lease of a new sam­pling pro­to­col for wa­ter in­side schools. Last July, it ad­vised The Sun­day Times the new pro­to­col would be ready for the start of the 2019 school year.

A spokesman said it had been de­layed be­cause its En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Stand­ing Com­mit­tee (enHealth) had de­cided to broaden the scope of its work “to in­clude, for ex­am­ple, risk mit­i­ga­tion for build­ing own­ers and oc­cu­piers to re­duce the risks of lead con­tam­i­na­tion.”

The com­mit­tee is­sued a warn­ing in July that ev­ery ef­fort should be made to re­duce ex­po­sure to lead, in­clud­ing lead that may be dis­solv­ing into drink­ing wa­ter from plumb­ing prod­ucts, es­pe­cially those that con­tain brass.

The enHealth Com­mit­tee has called for the pro­gres­sive re­place­ment of lead-con­tain­ing plumb­ing prod­ucts. It also ad­vised Aus­tralian house­holds to run their taps for at least 30 sec­onds in the morn­ing.

There is in­creas­ing ev­i­dence glob­ally that lead can harm hu­man health even at ex­tremely low lev­els.

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