Province to provide schools with drinking water

Testing finds levels of lead, copper at two local schools above guidelines

By Helen Murphy    
December 23 2019

GUYSBOROUGH – The provincial government announced Thursday, Dec. 19 that it will provide drinking water to 324 public schools in January, until lead testing in all schools can be completed. This includes 284 schools not yet tested for lead and 40 schools that have been tested and require drinking water.

In response to the new Health Canada Guidelines for lead and copper in drinking water, the Strait Regional Centre for Education tested water from cold water faucets and fountains in all 20 schools in October and early November. Some of the sources tested at Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy exceeded allowable concentrations of copper and some at St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy exceeded the allowable concentration for lead.

Samples at Fanning Education Centre/Canso Academy did not exceed allowable concentrations for either lead or copper in the new guidelines.

SRCE spokesperson Deanna Gillis told the Journal Thursday that the sources that exceeded the allowable concentrations included kitchen and classroom sinks, and one fountain at CEC/GA.

Gillis said when these results were received, the SRCE took action the same day, including turning off the affected fountain, posting signage and providing alternate sources of water (water coolers and/or bottled water). These measures will remain in place until the source of the lead and/or copper has been determined and long-term solutions are implemented.

The SRCE also sent letters to students, staff and families advising them of the change to Health Canada’s guidelines for lead and copper, the results of the testing and corrective measures, said Gillis.

Follow-up retesting of the sources that exceeded the maximum allowable concentration for lead or copper will take place in January. This is to determine the source of the lead or copper -- such as plumbing inside the school, including taps, aerators and fountains -- and then implement a remediation plan. Testing will continue in the spring of 2020 of all remaining cold water faucets not previously tested.

The new federal guidelines require that testing be done only in warmer weather. The province aims to have all schools tested by the end of the current school year.

"The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority," said Gillis. "The SRCE is following testing protocol set out by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Health Canada Guidelines with support from our partners from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Education and Early Childhood Development. The SRCE has been in compliance with Health Canada Guidelines and provincial regulations all along and will continue to be in compliance."