High lead levels at some local schools, report indicates
By Chad Ingram
Some schools in Haliburton County have had lead levels in their water that exceed federal regulations, but yet are still compliant with provincial ones, since the two levels of government have different thresholds for what is considered an acceptable amount.
An investigative story by Global News in concert with other media found a number of schools and daycares that had water with lead levels in excess of the Health Canada threshold, which is five parts per billion (ppb). However, most of those facilities were compliant with the provincial threshold, which is 10 ppb. Also, a disclaimer in the story notes that the data contained in the story was obtained between April 2016 and March 2018, and may no longer reflect lead levels at the facilities.
In Haliburton County, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School was on the list, with levels exceeding the federal regulation by 40.9 per cent. Cardiff Elementary School had levels exceeded the federal threshold by 37.5 per cent, J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School by 8.3 per cent, and the Haliburton Highlands Adult Education and Teaching Centre by 25 per cent.
Catherine Shedden, district manager of corporate communications for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board pointed out the figures contained in the report were from last year, and that the board is currently in the process of water testing for this year.
“A total of 74 samples have been obtained over the past three years in Haliburton schools,” Shedden wrote in an email to the paper. “Six of the 74 samples have failed a standing or flushing sample (three per cent).
“Under the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standard, Objectives and Guidelines the Maximum Acceptable Concentration (MAC) for lead in a water supply is 10 micrograms per litre (ug/L). Designated fixtures included fountains, hydration stations and sinks where children could obtain a drink and supplies that are used for cooking or food/drink preparation.”
Shedden explained the board’s water-testing procedure.
“Two samples are taken from each location with the first sample prior to building flushing (called a ‘standing’ sample) and the second after the building flushing,” she wrote. “The recommendation from the Government of Ontario for instances where there is an exceedance of lead in a ‘standing’ sample is to flush the school plumbing daily.”
Where there are issues with the safety of drinking water, the school board works with the health unit to address them.
“Whenever results from water tests exceed the threshold for safe drinking water at a school, the TLDSB Facilities Services department work with the local health unit to determine the best corrective action,” Shedden wrote. “This could include, but is not limited to, taking the drinking water fixture out of service (which happens as soon as there is an exceedance), increase flushing, further resampling, replacement of a fixture.”