Work is underway on a plan to test the drinking water in Mission schools for possible lead contamination.

Work is underway on a plan to test the drinking water in Mission schools for possible lead contamination.

Lead testing coming to Mission schools

Plans being developed in response to provincial education ministry edict to all B.C. schools.

  • Jun. 2, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Dan Ferguson

Abbotsford News

Work is underway on a plan to test the drinking water in Mission schools for possible lead contamination, but it can’t get underway until the provincial ministry of education explains exactly how the water quality data should be collected.

A message from the office of education minister Mike Bernier on Wednesday (May 25) said the provincial education ministry “will compile the results (of the tests for possible lead contamination) and we will develop standard questions so that information received from districts is consistent.”

Mission school district assistant superintendent Randy Huth said a program to test school drinking water is being developed .

“We are working on a response,” Huth said.

“Plans are being prepared.”

Currently Huth said three of the 16 schools in the Mission district are already being tested once a year for lead contamination because they are on well water.

None have ever gone over the acceptable limits.

Abbotsford school district communications manager Dave Stephen said a preliminary plan to test school water supplies this summer was being developed, but will now “await the standardized guidelines from the Ministry before conducting any tests, to ensure we provide exactly the information they request.”

Once that’s been sorted out, Stephen said the district is planning to test the water in all Abbotsford schools built before 1990. That’s because solder used in water pipes around then could contain lead.

There are 35 (out of 46) schools still in operation in the Abbotsford school district that were built prior to 1990.

Two Abbotsford schools have already been tested for lead contamination at the urging of their Parent Advisory Committees; Abbotsford traditional secondary, which was tested this year and Prince Charles elementary, which was tested a few years previously.

In both cases, lead levels were found to be below the “maximum acceptable concentrations.”

The tests were ordered before news broke that that roughly one in four B.C. school districts has reported elevated levels of lead in their drinking water.

An education ministry statement said in many cases the elevated lead reports were “isolated incidents in limited numbers of schools – such as a single fountain, or part of a school.”

The statement said in every case, districts have fixed the problem, either by replacing drinking fountains, or implementing a flushing program.

The ministry said it expects all school districts to test drinking water for lead, or explain why testing isn’t needed.