Water in every Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows school will be tested to ensure safe levels of lead.
“I don’t foresee a problem, but other districts have been surprised,” said School District No. 42 director of facilities Rick Delorme.
Unsafe levels of lead have been found in the drinking water at 28 out of 31 Delta schools this month. One suspected cause is lead used in solder on the plumbing, which is leaching into the water. Using lead in plumbing was banned in 1990, so schools built before that time may still have it.
According to reports, 17 of the province’s 60 schools have reported unsafe levels of lead in at least one school’s drinking water. The discovery of high levels of lead in four Prince Rupert elementary schools led to North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice introducing a private member’s bill titled the Safe Water for Schools Act last month.
Education Minister Mike Bernier recently announced that all schools in the province will be tested on an annual basis.
Delorme said the water in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is of low acidity, which makes it lower risk to contain contaminants. There is also no history of water contamination problems in this district.
Delorme said testing bottles are arriving this week, and water samples will be taken at every school. It will take about one week to get the results back, he added.
School board chair Mike Murray said trustees will receive a report if there are any problems, and take necessary steps.
“Obviously, the safety of our students is our uppermost concern.”
If there are high lead levels, they should be remedied with an automatic flushing system or by replacing plumbing, said Delorme.
A Ministry of Health report published in 2014 stated, “Given the consequences of lead exposure during childhood and the effects that can occur even at low levels, reducing lead exposures should be a public health priority.”
In children, lead interferes with the development of the nervous system. Exposure to even low levels of lead before the age of six can cause learning impairments and behaviour disorders.
Water in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is supplied by Metro Vancouver, from Coquitlam Lake.