PORT HAWKESBURY: The Strait regional centre for education (SRCE) said it is committed to monitoring water quality as 11 of its schools tested with higher than acceptable levels of lead and copper in their water supplies.

A recent investigation by Star Halifax found that some schools in Nova Scotia on municipal water supplies had never tested their water for lead until this year.

Deanna Gillis, coordinator of communications with the SRCE, explained that an update to Health Canada’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality for lead and copper mandated a new water quality and testing protocol which has been implemented at all schools, some with drinking water provided by municipal water systems.

“To implement this new testing protocol, a third-party service provider and an accredited lab were contracted by the SRCE to do the sample collection and analysis,” Gillis explained. “Testing has included potential drinking and cooking water sources [cold water faucets/fountains] at all 20 of our schools and samples were drawn in October and early November.”

According to the results, nine schools did not exceed acceptable levels for lead and copper based on maximum allowable concentrations under Health Canada’s updated drinking water guidelines.

However, 11 schools did have higher than acceptable levels of lead and/or copper in their drinking water, including: Bayview Education Centre (lead only); Cape Breton Highlands Education Centre/Academy (lead only); Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy (copper only); Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School (lead and copper); East Richmond Education Centre (lead only); Pleasant Bay School (lead and copper); SAERC (lead only); St. Andrews Consolidated School (lead only); St. Andrew Junior School (lead only); St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy (lead only); and Whycocomagh Education Centre (lead only).

“When results are received, immediate action is taken the same day,” Gillis noted. “These interim corrective measures include posting signage, providing alternate sources of water and sending letters to students, staff and families of all 20 schools… These interim corrective measures will remain in place until the source of the lead and/or copper has been determined and long-term solutions implemented.”

For follow-up, Gillis said the SRCE has contracted a third party consultant to retest of the sources that exceeded the maximum allowable concentration for lead or copper. That will take place later this fall.

“The purpose of this retesting is to investigate the source of the lead or copper [i.e., plumbing infrastructure inside the school including taps, aerators and fountains] and then to implement a remediation plan,” Gills added. “In addition, testing will resume in the spring of 2020 of all remaining cold water faucets not previously tested.”