Kamloops News

Elevated levels of lead found in four Kamloops schools; one former school facility

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KAMLOOPS - Drinking water at four schools and a childcare facility in Kamloops have tested above acceptable standards for lead.

Summit Elementary School, Vavenby Elementary School and Twin Rivers Education Centre along with l'école Collines d'Or de Kamloops have all had drinking water shut off due to higher than acceptable lead content says the district’s health and safety manager Michelle Marginet. Elevated lead levels have also been found at the former Ralph Bell school facility where the Children's Place Childcare Center is located, but not in an area used by the centre according to Marginet.

Marginet says the list is likely to stay at five as the district is at the end of their testing phase.

“All of them had slightly elevated levels of lead,” she says. “There’s always concern when there’s lead in the water with a vulnerable population.”

Parents have been notified.

“The test results for all the sites won’t be back until next week at Summit,” Marginet says. “Maintenance staff are working on the other locations.”

She says the school district hasn’t been testing regularily for lead and it’s unclear how long the lead levels have been up. The school district hadn’t been testing because the area has a low risk for lead leaching into the water, but after lead was found in drinking water in schools in Penticton last May and a Ministry of Education policy update in September, School District 73 started a program to test the local drinking locations.

“I don’t know how long it would have been,” she says. “It’s never been considered a problem in this district.”

The district now has policy to test each school every three years.

The reason for elevated levels hasn’t been identified. At l'école Collines d'Or de Kamloops levels were high in only one water fountain, but the issue was more widespread at other locations.

The age of the schools could have something to do with it, as lead was a more common material used before the 1990s Marginet says. The lead may have leached into the water from pipes or soldering.

“It might be a particular water fountain is not used often,” she says. “It sometimes is the actual fixtures themselves.”

Maintenance people are working on four of the sites now to figure out solutions, which may be as simple as flushing the system or could require replacement of the plumbing system. At one school the initial efforts didn’t solve the problem. 

Marginet says parents who are concerned about their children should discuss it with health professionals.

“It’s based very much on the volume of water consumed,” she says.

— This story was updated at 2:10 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 with clarification from Michelle Marginet that the Children's Place Childcare Center is not in the section of the former Ralph Bell school with elevated lead levels in the water.

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