Nanaimo school district has released a report with details on tests done to determine lead levels in water.                                KARL YU/News Bulletin
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Nanaimo school district has released a report with details on tests done to determine lead levels in water. KARL YU/News Bulletin

VIDEO: Nanaimo school district implements fixes after testing for lead in water

B.C. Ministry of Education requires one-third of schools built before 1990 to be tested yearly

After testing at schools revealed lead in drinking water, Nanaimo school district is working on mitigation procedures.

The B.C. Ministry of Education has mandated water testing in schools built before 1990 and the district hired Tetra Tech Engineering to examine schools, including John Barsby and Nanaimo District secondary schools and Bayview, Chase River, Fairview, École North Oyster, École Hammond Bay, Pleasant Valley and Rock City elementary schools.

Testing took place in December, with water samples taken and lines flushed out.

Brian Hackwood, manager of maintenance, told the district business committee all facilities had samples with a lead count above the acceptable 10 micrograms per litre upon first sample, but it decreased as faucets ran.

“Fifty-nine per cent of all the taps we did passed, so that’s [where] you turn the tap, you got your little jar underneath, you take the water, you sample it, the lead content wasn’t above Canada’s safe drinking guidelines,” said Hackwood. “Ninety-eight per cent of them cleared within two minutes.”

A staff report indicated Barsby school had two samples failing after five minutes of water running and Nanaimo District Secondary had one sample that failed after that time.

Signage has been placed at tested facilities, and will be placed at yet-to-be tested sites.

In an e-mail, Dale Burgos, district spokesman, said mitigation work is expected to be completed by the end of April.

In the case of Barsby, five auto flush valves will be installed, which will focus on stagnant water and end of runs in the science rooms – there are signs indicating that water is not safe for consumption.

At Nanaimo District Secondary, a faucet has been replaced in the prep room and three new drinking fountains and three auto flush valves have been installed.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health medical health officer, said running the water has been recommended for years and it’s part of procedures at most schools.

“I think that this is just a reassurance that this is an issue that’s being looked at … we’ll work with the school districts and we’ll continue to work towards mitigating this. We haven’t seen evidence of lead poisoning amongst students and there’s nothing different here than what has been in place for probably several decades, because these are older schools,” said Hasselback when asked if there is reason for concern.

One-third of district schools must be tested annually, as per provincial requirements. For more information, please visit the school district’s website at

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