Trace amounts of lead were found in water samples at some of Chilliwack’s schools over the last year.
The problem came from older pipes, in areas of schools where the sinks were only being turned on as little as once a day or even once a month, says Allan Van Tassel, director of operations and facilities for the Chilliwack School Board.
“We went through and tested all of our sites,” van Tassel said. “What the concerns were is some of the old piping, they were worried that the water would absorb this and come out in the drinking water.”
The concern was province-wide, and all schools were tested in the same manner across B.C. Affected school districts, which turned out to be about half of them, were given three years to do follow-up testing. Chilliwack has already completed their tests and mitigated the problems.
All of Chilliwack’s seven failed taps were for trace amounts. Since that testing, they have adopted a flushing schedule for those taps and have not had any positive tests since. Each site in a school is tested, to be thorough.
“You can’t just have one spot,” Van Tassel explained. “You need to sample the entire building. We had a very small number of actual samples that came back (positive for lead).
“They were all from areas that were not used frequently, such as a kitchen being used once a day or once a month.”
They tested the samples in early mornings, before anyone had a chance to run the water clear. Once the problem areas were identified, they initiated the flushing program. The school janitors now run the taps on a regular basis. That has been enough to remove the trace levels of lead that were initially found.
“Now we have a flushing program in place, and there’s a procedure, we are making sure we are moving the water and there are no concerns,” van Tassel said. “We’ve retested them more than once.”
The testing took place under the guidance of Fraser Health and the Ministry of Education.