lead-poisoned water in schools


Parents at Bayshore P.S. received an alarming note on May 23 advising them that the water in the school had been found to be unfit for human consumption. It didn’t mention that high levels of lead had been found in the school’s water supply. The drinking fountains have been shut down.

Water coolers have been installed in the school and bottled water is being trucked in by the pallet.

The water was tested on May 22 and was found to contain 624 micrograms/L of lead, which is over 60 times higher than the acceptable level of below 10 micrograms/L, a standard defined by the Ontario government.

A second test was taken on May 22 after the system was flushed (letting the water run for 30 minutes) and this resulted in a reading of 382 micrograms/L, almost 40 times higher than the safe level. After letting the water run all night, another test on May 29 put the level at 27.1 micrograms/L, three times the acceptable level.

The school’s water system will continue to be flushed on a daily basis and another test will take place on Tues. June 5 (World Environment Day!).

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) policy states that schools serviced by the City of Ottawa do not require routine water testing but ALL schools must be flushed at least once a week.

Wow, so much expensive drinking water flushed down the drain – it must cost the taxpayer a fortune!

I am NOT suggesting that any of the board’s policies and procedures haven’t been scrupulously followed or that there is a problem in any other OCDSB school. I asked our trustee if there had been any problems with Bells Corners schools and she said that she hadn’t heard of anything.

But I do have some questions – were the Bayshore parents given the details about WHY the water fountains were closed (i.e. the extremely high levels of lead)? Children are more at risk for lead poisoning because their smaller bodies are in a continuous state of growth and development. Lead is absorbed at a faster rate compared to adults, which causes more physical harm than to older people.

I can appreciate that the OCDSB doesn’t want to alarm parents unnecessarily, but shouldn’t parents have the same information as staff, some of whom are worried about their own health and are considering getting blood tests done? As far as I can tell there has been no mention of the Bayshore water problem in the media and I can’t find anything on the school’s site or on the OCDSB’s site.

A bigger question – WHY is the water in Bayshore P.S. unfit to drink? If the taps were left running all night and it was still contaminated, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the problem is NOT in the school’s pipes but in the City of Ottawa’s aging infrastructure? Bayshore was built a long time ago, in the 60s.

Have any Bayshore/Accora residents had the water tested in their rental units?

Hmmmm, maybe when I go to the Bayshore Shopping Centre to check out the new Target store (the Bells Corners Zellers was left off the list) I’ll avoid the water fountains if I’m thirsty.

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3 Responses to lead-poisoned water in schools

  1. wokkie says:

    When we muck around by building on every square inch of available land, it disturbs the lead in the rocks and soil, concentrating it and spilling it right into the water system.

    No amount of work is going to get rid of lead and other heavy metals in our water.

    No wonder the water is going to pot. Profits before health as always!

    As usual, we have only ourselves to blame!

  2. ottawaowl says:

    Lead found in school’s water could be tip of iceberg
    Same type of water fountain was installed in other schools

    Nevil Hunt, EMC

    Multiple tests have found levels of lead in the water at Bayshore Public School that are 60 times what is considered acceptable.

    In addition, the plumbing work that is suspected as a possible source of the contamination may have been carried out at other schools across the Ottawa public board.

    Students have been stopped from drinking the water at Bayshore Public School since May 23, when a test result showed 626 micrograms of lead per litre of water. The acceptable level is 10 micrograms per litre.

    It’s not clear how long students may have been drinking water contaminated with high levels of lead. A possible cause mentioned on the school’s website was described as “recent work on the plumbing.”

    A custodian at the school said a drinking fountain and a washing machine were the most recent plumbing projects. The same type of drinking fountain – a new design that includes a faucet to fill water bottles – has been installed in other schools in the public board, possibly using the same installation materials and methods as the fountain at the Bayshore school.

    If the water fountain is the cause of the lead in the school’s water, it’s possible other schools in the board have the same contamination.

    It’s not clear if the public board has ordered tests of water in all schools that have had the same type of water fountain installed. The chair of the public school board, trustee Jennifer McKenzie, was not immediately available to comment.

    SINCE MARCH

    The first plumbing job at Bayshore Public School was completed before March 2012, meaning students may have been drinking water with high levels of lead since that time.

    The school board only requires water testing once a year at schools served by the city’s water system. The EMC was provided with access to the last water test at the Bayshore school, dated May 2011, which showed the water was safe to drink at that time.

    The tap water at the school is still being used for washing hands. A sign on exterior doors warns people not to drink the water and water fountains have been covered to prevent their use.

    Students could be seen earlier today using paper cups at water coolers placed in the hallways when they wanted a drink. About 400 children attend the school, from kindergarten to Grade 5.

    The board’s communications staff provided comment by email. Sharlene Hunter said that the Bayshore school’s water was sampled twice on May 14, part of the annual testing.

    The standing water sample showed 626 micrograms of lead per litre. The sample taken after running the tap for 30 minutes, followed by 30 to 35 minutes of not running, showed 382 micrograms per litre.

    The results were reported to the school on May 23. Since then, custodial staff has been flushing the school’s pipes for 30 minutes every morning. The board’s water policy requires regular water flushing of all pipes; Bayshore’s were flushed weekly before the lead contamination was discovered.

    A subsequent test of the school’s water taken on May 29 showed that the lead level dropped to 27.1 micrograms per litre.

    Another water sample was collected at Bayshore Public School today, June 5, and will be tested for lead. Hunter said she expects the results by tomorrow, June 6.

    HEALTH EFFECTS

    Health Canada says exposure to lead can affect intellectual development of children.

    The federal department says infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead because they are growing quickly and they absorb lead more easily and excrete lead less efficiently than adults.

  3. ottawaowl says:


    “The school board only requires water testing once a year at schools served by the city’s water system.”

    The province requires testing for lead once a year.

    OCDSB policy seems to say that testing is NOT necessary if the school is served by city pipes.

    Have all schools been tested? Are all schools flushed?

    All those vast quantities of expensive drinking water being flushed down the drain! You can see the motivation for a beancounter or a treehugger to cut corners, especially when the school is relatively new.

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