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Health authority working to deal with elevated lead levels in water at three Penticton schools

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May 07, 2016 - 11:30 AM

PENTICTON - Interior Health and the Okanagan Skaha school board are working together to remedy the elevated levels of lead detected in the water at three Penticton schools.

“From what we’ve seen so far, we wouldn’t consider the lead levels high. It was one preliminary sample that was taken,” Interior Health’s environmental health manager Courtney Hesketh says.

School District 67 issued a notice on May 5 warning of elevated levels of lead detected in the tap water at West Bench Elementary School, Uplands Elementary School and McNicoll Park Middle School. The school district believes the elevated lead levels are from lead in pipes and plumbing components.

Hesketh says Interior Health is working with the school district to develop a water sampling program and to make sure protocols are in place to flush the water lines in the schools.

The school board has already cut the water off to the drinking fountians in the school and is providing students with bottled water to drink.

Hesketh says research has shown high levels of lead ingestion, especially in young children, can lead to intellectual development and health issues. The health impacts of lead exposure really depend on length and amount of exposure, and are particularly serious in children under the age of six.

She says the lead levels detected in the water at the three schools is low.

“They’re above the Canadian guideline, but still what we would consider low range,” she says.

Hesketh says concerns about lead in the water in the 1980s led to remedial work being done to resolve the issue at schools across the province. She says a science experiment discovered elevated levels of lead in the Prince Rupert school district at that time, prompting a local politician to advance a private members bill asking for mandatory testing of lead in schools.

“About a month ago, school districts in the province were advised to check their lead levels and implement flush procedures if they had lapsed. I expect many school districts will be checking their lead levels again,” she says. Sampling is done on Monday mornings after water has been sitting in the pipes all weekend.

Hesketh says Penticton has very good water.

“It’s not aggressive water in that it’s not low in PH which causes leaching of lead out of solder and pipes, so overall when we look at our population we don’t have a great concern,” she says.

Hesketh says the health authority recommends residents flush their domestic systems by letting cold water run for a couple of minutes before using the water for consumption.

“There is no issue whatsoever with the City of Penticton’s water. The recommendation is mainly for homes built prior to 1980, but it doesn’t hurt for all residents to give their systems a quick flush in the morning,” she says.


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