Nova Scotia

3 Cape Breton schools bring in bottled water after lead found in water

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education has turned off taps at some of its schools over concerns about lead in drinking water.

Education Department testing all schools in the province after new guidelines introduced

Water at all schools in the province will be tested after Health Canada introduced new lead guidelines earlier this year. (Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press)

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education has turned off taps at some of its schools over concerns about lead in drinking water.

Nova Scotia's Department of Education has launched testing for lead in drinking water at all of the province's schools following the release of new Health Canada guidelines in March.

The updated guidelines reduced the maximum acceptable concentration from 0.01 mg/L, set in 1992, to 0.005 mg/L. They also introduced new testing protocols for schools.

In the past, schools on municipal water systems relied on the testing conducted by municipalities at the water source.

"Those guidelines have changed," Education Minister Zach Churchill said Thursday. "So we're adjusting our practices to remain compliant with changing guidelines and so now all taps at every single school will be tested."

Ninety-two of the province's 370 schools have been tested to date.

3 schools using bottled water

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education has tested 14 of its 38 schools.

"We're following advice from the government and Department of Environment on developing a protocol of testing at the water sources in our schools … which would include drinking fountains, sinks in classrooms, sinks in cafeterias, sinks in staff rooms," said Lewis MacDonald, co-ordinator of facilities management.

As a result of testing, three schools have been provided with bottled water: Marion Bridge Elementary, Sydney River Elementary, and Cusack Elementary in Sydney.

"With those schools, there was multiple sources that had exceedances for lead," said MacDonald.

None of the exceedances was found at drinking fountains. They were all from classroom sinks.

Notices were sent to the schools Friday to be dispersed to parents.

Taps shut off at other schools

There were a "handful of exceedances" at six other schools: Harbourside Elementary, Jubilee Elementary, Glace Bay Elementary, Shipyard Elementary, Brookland Elementary and Riverside Elementary.

In those cases, the taps have been shut off and out-of-service signs have been posted.

"Health and safety of children, the students, is our top priority," said MacDonald. "When we received our results, we took immediate action to either shut off the tap or put the school on bottled water. And we're working on follow-up protocol for corrective actions."

Those could include follow-up testing, or switching out the fixtures, he said.

The Department of Education anticipates all schools will be tested by the end of the school year, and a public database housing school water testing results will be in place by the start of the next school year.

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