Concerns raised again on lead in school water

RAINBOW DISTRICT—Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha says regardless of when, or what measures are taken to remove lead in water in schools, this needs to be remedied.

“Regardless of what day or time lines in the schools are flushed, they are still exposing our school children to lead in the school drinking water,” stated Mr. Mantha, last Friday. “I posed the question to the minister as to when this will be  focus and priority in all schools and that drinking water should be safe regardless of the day of the week. The province is not recognizing this as a problem in schools, including some on Manitoulin and the North Shore.”
This comes after Mr. Mantha had raised the issue and a representative of the Sudbury District Health confirmed that lead levels in area schools that are higher than the provincial average are tested every day. Burgess Hawkins, health unit environmental manager, told the media that lead levels in area schools that are higher than the provincial average are tested every day. He said the lead, which has shown up in the joint school, (AB Ellis and Espanola High School), S. Geiger in Massey, three Manitoulin Island schools and 27 others in the northeast, is not likely from the water source itself. He adds testing and flushing is done every day and there is little reason for the public to be overly concerned. The health unit will continue to monitor the situation for the next three years.

Mr. Mantha said the Liberal government is neglecting elementary schools by failing to take action on the 33 schools in the Sudbury and Algoma-Manitoulin area, which recently tested for higher than provincially acceptable lead levels in their water. They include Central Manitoulin Public School, Assiginack Public School and Manitoulin Secondary School and all have tested above the acceptable provincial drinking water standards for lead according to an October 2017 report by Sudbury District Health.

Norm Blaseg, director of education for the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) told the Recorder last Friday, “on our website we report all readings of lead in our schools. In terms of the process we test twice (every day). The water is run every day for a certain length of time and the start of the day.”

Mr. Blaseg explained, “part of the problem is if the water has been standing too long in a pipe, for instance on a weekend. If after the second flushing and test is taken if the reading is still high we contact public health officials and this (water fountain-source) is shut down. Our number one role as a school board is that students and staff in our schools are safe.” “If you look at our website and the water readings from our schools are in compliance with standards,” said Mr. Blaseg. “If tests are taken for example in August when there are no school activities the lead levels are obviously going to be higher than in June. Staff custodian duties are to run the water lines first thing every Monday after weekends to get rid of any potential contaminants.”

Mr. Blaseg said, “99.9 percent of the problem is because of the age of the water pipes and levels obviously can rise if the water lines are not flushed enough.” He pointed out the school water lines are the same as the municipality they are located in, as they are connected to the (latter) water lines.“

“Regardless of the day of the week, or the month, schools should have safe water to drink at all times,” added Mr. Mantha.