Local officials are quite calm after recent national reports of high lead levels in Canada.
“Our distribution system doesn’t really have any lead in it whatsoever,” says Paul Donnelly, water sewer operator with the District of 100 Mile House.
“We get our well-water tested twice a year,” says Donnelly. “The lead content is basically non-existent. So [if] people are getting lead, most likely in their houses and stuff, it’s generally because of the piping in their house. The lead solder they used to use back however many years ago right? It seeps into the water in their house. “
The city’s pipes, such as the water main, are mostly concrete pipe and the newer pipe is basically a plastic, he says. There’s nothing to worry about as far as the distribution system, says Donnelly, but it’s hard to say whether lead would be a concern for individual residences as it would depend on how old the house is and what the plumbing is made of.
In 2018, following testing, the school district stopped students from drinking tap water at 100 Mile Elementary.
“In those buildings, the plumbing’s so old there was lead in the pipes I believe,” says Donnelly.
Regular water testing and finding solutions to lead in drinking water is ongoing work in the School District 27 (SD27), which has many pre-1985 buildings to contend with, according to Alex Telford, manager of facilities and transportation for SD27 following recent media reports on lead levels in drinking water.
The district always tests at the tap-end, he says.
“The ministry has been [focused] on this for four years.”
Telford acknowledged lead has been found in many of the district’s schools but that testing is constant and solutions are available.
The district has employed many efforts to ensure safe drinking water for students and staff; such as replacing old pipes and fixtures to installing filters on water fountains and, in some cases where they can’t reduce the lead, providing bottled water to drink, Telford said.
To date, two schools have been re-piped, 50 new, lead filtering water fountains have been installed and the district also supplies bottled water to several sites for use in kitchens, staff rooms and hallway coolers.
“When testing our sites for lead content, we conduct a pre-test where the water has not been ran through the pipes beforehand and a post-test where the water is ran for 10 minutes before the test. The majority of our sites that test positive for lead only test positive in the pre-test.”
Telford noted one of the challenges is keeping up with the changing water guidelines.
Marie Sharpe Elementary School is the district’s oldest school, built-in 1942, with many additions after that, and is currently the district’s No. 1 capital request for replacement.
With files from Angie Mindus and The Canadian Press