Don’t drink the blue wa­ter: Taps ban for chil­dren at schools built on toxic dump

Tests prompt warn­ing...three years af­ter alarm was first raised

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Ju­dith Duffy [email protected]

Pupils and teach­ers have been told not to drink tap wa­ter at new sec­ondary schools built on a toxic dump.

The warn­ing comes af­ter coun­cil ed­u­ca­tion chiefs or­dered tests into re­ports that the wa­ter from the taps was run­ning blue.

North La­nark­shire Coun­cil ad­mit­ted the alarm was first raised three years ago but tests were only or­dered in Oc­to­ber.

Staff and chil­dren at Buchanan High School in Coat­bridge, which was built in 2012, have said wa­ter com­ing from the mains has a no­table blue tinge.

Ex­perts say high lev­els of cop­per in cor­roded pipework can cause the blue colour.

Ab­nor­mally high lev­els of cop­per have also been found in some tests at St Am­brose High School, which is on the same cam­pus and has around 1,200 pupils.

Staff and pupils at both schools have been warned not to drink from the taps and the re­place­ment of hun­dreds of me­tres of pipework in the school is be­ing con­sid­ered.

Buchanan High is a non­de­nom­i­na­tional school for pupils with ad­di­tional sup­port needs. It has 121 pupils aged 12 to 18, and 21 teach­ing staff.

It was built on a for­mer land­fill site used by Gartsher­rie Iron­works for in­dus­trial waste in­clud­ing chem­i­cals and haz­ardous sub­stances such as ar­senic, nickel, and lead.

It is un­der­stood the is­sue of the wa­ter qual­ity was for­mally raised in Septem­ber by trade unions.

On foot of those com­plaints, the coun­cil com­mis­sioned a range of tests, which were car­ried out by in­de­pen­dent ex­perts in Oc­to­ber.

It was con­firmed the blue wa­ter was due to cop­per as a re­sult of “po­ten­tial” cor­ro­sion in pipework.

Ad­vice from the Drink­ing Wa­ter In­spec­torate states that blue colour in wa­ter is rare, but when it hap­pens it is due to cor­ro­sion of cop­per plumb­ing and in­di­cates high lev­els of cop­per in the wa­ter.

The in­spec­torate said most recorded cases hap­pen in large pub­lic build­ings or new hous­ing es­tates.

Con­sump­tion of high lev­els of cop­per can cause poi­son­ing and stom­ach up­sets.

One wa­ter in­dus­try ex­pert said the pres­ence of blue wa­ter was a “rare oc­cur­rence” and it should not be hap­pen­ing.

He said: “It sug­gests there is some­thing un­to­ward in the sys­tem which needs real in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It would need some sort of foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and like any­thing, you elim­i­nate one thing at a time.

“The gen­eral view is that cop­per is not harm­ful at low lev­els but you don’t want to be drink­ing a pint of blue wa­ter.”

The school com­plex was com­pleted in 2012 on the for­mer land­fill site, which used from 1945 to 1972.

The ini­tial plan­ning of the school’s con­struc­tion at­tracted op­po­si­tion from the out­set, with 509 let­ters of ob­jec­tion lodged, in­clud­ing 32 from lo­cal res­i­dents.

But con­sul­ta­tions with a num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing SEPA, raised no ob­jec­tions to the school com­plex be­ing built on the site.

It is un­der­stood test­ing has not been car­ried out on the soil as North La­nark­shire Coun­cil is sat­is­fied the site has been capped and meets build­ing reg­u­la­tions.

A spokesman for North La­nark­shire Coun­cil said the “oc­ca­sional in­stances” of blue wa­ter from taps at the school is due to “po­ten­tial cor­ro­sion in the pipework cre­at­ing a cop­per so­lu­tion”.

He said: “This has lit­tle im­pact on the qual­ity of the wa­ter, al­though there is dis­col­oration, which un­der­stand­ably, can ap­pear alarm­ing.

“Since this has been re­ported we have been proac­tive in iden­ti­fy­ing the prob­lem. We have re­placed fil­ters and are flush­ing the sys­tem twice a day which will help lower the con­cen­tra­tion of cop­per in the taps con­cerned.

“We are car­ry­ing out daily tests to see what im­pact that is hav­ing and we are ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing a longer-term so­lu­tion which could in­clude re­plac­ing up to 300 me­tres of pipework.”

He added: “How­ever, the taps af­fected are for hand­wash­ing only and pupils and staff have been ad­vised of this.

“There are sep­a­rate wa­ter foun­tains for drink­ing, which have a fil­ter sys­tem in place.

“In ad­di­tion, to re­as­sure staff and pupils, we have also made bot­tled wa­ter avail­able.”

‘It sug­gests there is some­thing un­to­ward in the sys­tem that de­mands real in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Buchanan High, cir­cled next to St Am­brose, was built on dump site for Gartsher­rie works, right

The schools’ wa­ter runs blue

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