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Elevated lead levels found in nine Kelowna-area schools

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May 24, 2016 - 10:30 AM

CENTRAL OKANAGAN - Officials in the Central Okanagan school district have tested for elevated lead levels in dozens of schools and have found nine that were of a concern.

Secretary treasurer Larry Paul said the district tested 34 schools in March after a science experiment detected elevated lead levels in schools in Prince Rupert, prompting a province-wide alert.

“We tested 34 schools over spring break and nine showed slightly higher levels that we are comfortable with,” Paul explained.

Paul said the results were all below Health Canada guidelines for lead but the district has decided to keep testing them while flushing out all water lines in the affected schools every morning.

He could not immediately name the nine schools.

Okanagan Skaha school district found lead levels in three schools and has begun a remedial program.

Paul said no one should get the idea the schools have solid lead pipes delivering water.

“From what I understand, it’s the solder used to join copper pipes, not the whole pipe,” he said. “The solder had lead in it so if the water sits in the pipes, like overnight or the weekend, there are points where lead can contaminate the water at a micro level.”

Custodial staff have been instructed to manually run the water systems in the affected schools well before classes begin, Paul said, and will continue regular tests of the water.

If for any reason lead cannot be kept at safe levels or start to rise, Paul said the district will likely install automated flushing systems in the affected schools.

“If we found that was happening, we would go through the Interior Health Authority and make a public announcement,” Paul added.

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