A new courthouse in Abbotsford has been found to have copper and lead in its water.
In a statement to CBC News earlier this week, B.C.'s Ministry of Citizens' Services confirmed water testing completed in August 2022 at the Abbotsford Law Courts showed copper and lead levels "modestly in excess" of those permitted by regulatory standards.
The issue appears to be ongoing as the province recently contracted a consulting firm to continue water testing in the building on 32375 Veterans Way for the next six months.
The news was first reported by the Fraser Valley Current, which noted it remains unclear whether the contamination is confined to the building and unrelated to the municipality's water infrastructure.
In its statement, the ministry said courthouse staff first complained about the water's taste and green residue being left in glassware in January 2022, one year after the facility opened.
At the time, the building's operator took steps to address the issue, including flushing the building — clearing out stagnant water accumulated during periods of low use — making bottled water available, and conducting water assessments.
Those assessments, by consulting firm Pinchin Ltd., led to further rounds of testing that showed more action was needed, prompting "interim emergency measures" in August 2022 — particularly, the disconnection of water fountains to prevent water use or consumption.
In January this year, the ministry issued a notice on its online bidding portal, saying it was contracting Pinchin for further monthly water testing through the end of July.
Symptoms of short-term exposure to copper in drinking water include nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, according to Health Canada. Long-term exposure can cause damage to the kidney and liver.
Meanwhile, ingesting lead can harm intellectual development, behaviour, size and hearing of fetuses, infants and children, according to the health authority.
When it opened in January 2021, the Abbotsford Law Courts was the first new courthouse built in the province in almost 20 years, the last being the Chilliwack Law Courts completed in 2002.
The 180,000-square-foot facility cost about $152 million in funding from the province and an additional $5.7 million from the City of Abbotsford.