Six schools in Windsor-Essex were found to have too much lead in their drinking water when fountains and taps were tested in 2016.

"If there is a lead exceedance then immediately we work with the health unit," said Kathy Quenneville, the energy and environmental Officer at the Greater Essex County District School Board. "There's a process we're required to follow according to the regulation... immediately I contact the health unit and we discuss proper corrective action and resolution and we follow through with that."

Quenneville said the annual testing of individual taps used for drinking water or food preparation takes place in the late spring. Schools sample "standing" drinking water that has sat in pipes overnight and "flushed" drinking water that "represents the plumbing after use." 

The provincial standard for lead in school drinking water is 10 parts per billion. 

Of the six local schools that tested above the limit, five are public schools and one is a Catholic school, according to data from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change obtained by the Toronto Star.

All of the schools report to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. 

Quenneville said there are many steps schools might take when they've exceeded the limit, but flushing lines can sometimes be enough. For example, if a school tap has exceeded a 'standing' level but the 'flushed' level is normal, that demonstrates that flushing helps eliminate the lead in the school "in the eyes of the ministry and health unit." 

"Schools are required to flush every Monday morning at a minimum," she said, adding that custodians are required to flush end of line plumbing every Monday morning for at least five minutes. Each tap and fountain used for consumption or food preparation must also be flushed for 10 seconds each prior to the entry of the students.

"In schools where we've had exceedances we flush daily," said Quenneville. 

These schools in Windsor-Essex did not meet the provincial standard for lead levels in their drinking water at individual taps:

  • Sandwich West Public School, tested in June 2016, had 19.5 ppb in standing drinking water​
  • General Amherst District High School, tested in June 2016, had 17.4 ppb in  standing drinking water
  • Riverside Secondary School, tested in July 2016, had 16.9 ppb in standing drinking water
  • D M Eagle PS, tested in June 2016, had 12.1 ppb in standing drinking water
  • St. Michael's Catholic High School - Adult Education, tested in July 2016, had 12 ppb in standing drinking water
  • Hugh Beaton Public School, tested in June 2016, had 10.8 ppb in standing drinking water​