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Elevated lead levels found at several North Okanagan schools

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September 06, 2016 - 12:29 PM

VERNON - The Vernon School District says slightly elevated lead levels were found in the tap water at three local elementary schools and two high schools.

The testing, which was done in response to the recent discovery of lead at schools in Prince Rupert, found higher than recommended levels at Crossroads Learning Centre, Cherryville Elementary, BX Elementary, Mission Hill Elementary, Kalamalka Secondary and WL Seaton Secondary Schools.

“Exposure to lead through tap water at the schools tested is expected to be low because initial water samples were tested after water had sat stagnant in pipes overnight, which produces the highest lead readings,” the school district states in a release. “Parents who have concerns may wish to contact their physician to discuss whether testing or follow-up is necessary for their child.”

The source of the lead is believed to be plumbing materials, and the school district will be implementing a flushing protocol every morning to keep the levels below Canada’s recommended maximum concentration of 0.010mg/L.

“Samples were taken after water was run for two minutes to flush stagnant water out of the pipes. All samples, after two minutes of flushing, had lead levels which measured below the guideline,” the school district states.

Interior Health is helping the school district develop a sampling program to monitor lead levels at all school facilities, and the district’s maintenance department has started a three stage program in the affected schools.

“First, daily flushing of fixtures prior to buildings being occupied has commenced. Step two is to identify and replace fixtures that contain lead components, and then retest the water,” the district says.

If lead levels remain above acceptable limits, replacing plumbing lines would be considered.

Routine testing will continue to ensure that the tap water on school property complies with the maximum allowable concentration for lead, the district says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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