On August 2nd, 2017, I wrote to the new Minister of Education, Rob Fleming, and the Premier, asking questions about the lead testing in schools...particularly SD68. I received a response from them yesterday and I have written back to them once again.
The letter the Ministry wrote is now attached and is copied and pasted here above the letter I wrote to them .
September 26, 2017
Dear Ms. Ross:
Thank you for your email sent August 2, 2017, addressed to the Honourable John Horgan,
Premier, and the Honourable Robert Fleming, Minister of Education, regarding lead levels in
BC’s schools, specifically School District No. 68 (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), and the remediation
actions in place to address the issue. I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Ministry of
Education, and I apologize for the delay.
The health and safety of students and staff is a top priority for the Ministry of Education, and
Ministry staff continue to work closely with school districts to ensure school facilities are safe
With this in mind, the Ministry developed the Testing Lead Content in Drinking Water of School
Facilities policy effective September 26, 2016, and has encouraged school districts to liaise with
their respective regional health authorities to establish a plan to evaluate and mitigate any issues.
Specifically, the policy states possible mitigation solutions including:
1. Plumbing upgrades;
2. Installation of filtration systems;
3. Deactivation of water sources and supplemental signage;
4. Flushing regimes; or
5. Other steps that result in reducing the exposure to lead to acceptable levels
The policy also stipulates that school districts must complete lead content testing on all school
facilities once every three years. Therefore, a minimum of one-third (or 33 percent) of the school
facilities in a school district’s inventory must be tested each year.
In support of school districts’ mitigation strategies, the Ministry provides approximately
$110 million annual funding through the Annual Facility Grant (AFG) for minor projects, which
will extend the life of the school or address any health, safety, or emergent issues that may arise.
School districts may utilize funds in their AFG to cover costs associated with the testing and
remediation of issues, such as lead content in drinking water of school facilities.
Additionally, the Ministry provided approximately $70 million in 2016/17 and $51 million in
2017/18 for the School Enhancement Program (SEP). School districts have an opportunity to
apply for funding of future capital projects (such as plumbing upgrades) in their annual
Five-Year Capital Plan submission to the Ministry of Education.
Since 2016, the Ministry has invested approximately $6.4 million in supporting 136 schools
across the province to address lead in water issues through the AFG and SEP programs, and will
continue to prioritize funding to address these issues. The Ministry will also continue to work
with school districts to remind them annually of the need to revisit and update their Water
Management Plans and to track and report results.
In regards to the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District specifically, the District provided testing
results to the Ministry as per the requirements of the Testing Lead Content in Drinking Water of
School Facilities policy, and have pursued mitigation strategies which the Ministry has funded
through SEP as follows: 2016/17
(1st SEP Call-out) – North Cedar Intermediate – Approved for $175,000 2016/17
(1st SEP Call-out) – Nanaimo District Senior Secondary – Approved for $68,500
(2nd SEP Call-out) – No requests for SEP funding for lead in water issues
No requests for SEP funding for lead in water issues.
- 7 schools requesting $750K in washroom upgrades, (does not specify if
funding is for lead in water issues)
If you have any further questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact
me directly at Michael.Nyikesgov.bc.ca.
Thank you again for your email, I appreciate the opportunity to read your comments.
Michael Nyikes, Director
Capital Standards Unit ----------------------------------------------------------
Good morning Mr. Nyikes and thank you for writing to me in response to my August 2nd, 2017 note to Minister Fleming and Premier Horgan.
I am writing to you on several issues I have with your response;
1. The policy that exists was developed by a Liberal Government and NOT by an NDP Government and it must be looked at in a more serious manner.
Most science will tell you that flushing a tap should be only a TEMPORARY fix. Can you honestly say that a small child, when thirsty, is going to let the water run for two minutes?? This is ridiculous in and of itself and I can say it does not happen.
So we have children drinking water containing lead...without a doubt. Not only that, they have been doing so for many years. Has your department done any investigation on the affects of lead on a child's brain? Flushing is NOT the answer. Filters must be put on all drinking water sources at a minimum. Pipes, where the lead counts are very high, should be changed.. This is issue #1.
2. Testing is done in only 1/3 of the schools per year? WHY?? With this policy of only 33% being tested per year, we then have children in many locations taking in lead that should not be in the drinking water at all .If 51 % of the schools have been found to contain lead in their water there are many vulnerable children in this province. Those schools that have only begun the testing last year are being allowed to leave the children in the District consuming lead laced water for two more years!!! How does this make any kind of sense?.Why are all schools not tested as quickly as possible and remedies applied?
3. Minister Fleming was quoted as saying ;
Fleming, the education minister, agreed that flushing is not a long-term solution to reduce lead in drinking water in schools.
But he said in an interview that the provincial health office has found no evidence of any children being harmed by the elevated lead levels. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/more-than-half-of-b-c-s-school-districts-had-unsafe-lead-levels-in-drinking-water-sources-in-2016
Please advise how many children have been tested for lead content in their systems and what the results of that testing were?
We all know that too has not occurred. Please advise the Minister to be very careful in what he states.
I thank you for the financial information on School District 68. I will be going back to them on this information to ask why they are not at minimum applying filters and to ask again to please test ALL schools immediately.
Lastly, please encourage the Ministry to look at the policy and make amendments to it that does not allow flushing and that states, all schools must have their drinking water tested for lead and where it is found to be in excess of the Canadian Health Act it must be remedied within a one year time frame.
With thanks for taking the time to read this and for your anticipated response.
For your information, I have bcc’d the Core Group of Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition
Chair – VIWWC
Editor – www.vancouverislandwaterwatchcoalition.ca