The Greater Victoria School District has installed new water fountains, bottle fillers and in-line filtration systems at all of 47 its schools to reduce lead concentrations.
In 2016, the province’s ministry of education mandated lead testing in schools. After the initial testing, the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) board invested $200,000 in new filtration systems. While this reduced lead concentrations, some school sites showed elevated traces during the annual testing in 2017.
The district said it was determined water that was sitting stagnant for an extended period of time in older fountain pipes caused the elevated traces. The board then decided to focus on replacing all the older water fountains. The work to remove the old fountains and bring in the new ones started in January.
“While most of the water fountains indicated safe lead levels after running for 15 seconds, the Board of Education felt filtered water should be immediate,” SD61 Board Chair Edith Loring Kuhanga said in a statement.
“Now, with the combination of new filtration systems and fixtures, we are very optimistic there will be a significant improvement in the schools’ water quality. It definitely brings a peace of mind knowing that students and staff will have safer drinking water.”
The school district said in total, nearly 230 water fixtures and more than 40 new pre-filtration systems have been added for approximately $850,000. The funding comes from the board’s operating budget, the ministry of education’s annual facilities grant and the ministry’s school enhancement program.
The annual lead tests will continue at one-third of the district sites to ensure the drinking water complies with the Health Canada guideline for lead in drinking water, starting this fall. The guideline states the maximum acceptable lead concentration is 0.010mg/L (10ppb).