Nova Scotia's Department of Education has released its testing data on lead and copper in school pipes, after Health Canada updated its guidelines in March 2019.
The changes 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.
An investigation by Global News and the Star Halifax, in partnership with Concordia University, University of King's College and other media academic partners, found that at least 24 schools in Nova Scotia have had lead levels exceeding Health Canada's limit in the past 10 years.
The data released Wednesday confirms that, though it does not immediately say how many of the province's 370 schools are above the limit.
The numbers are published in eight separate PDF documents, one for each centre for education. Within each PDF is a data entry for every pipe within every school – some schools have fewer than 10 pipes, others have more than 100.
In total, there are more than 350 pages.
When asked why the data was published this way, rather than a complete and searchable database, Education Minister Zach Chuchill said the published PDFs are the database.
"I don't see a difference.… There's information on the thousands of taps that we tested and that information will be updated as there's new information that becomes available," he said.
Bottled water to continue for now
Taps that exceed lead or copper limits won't be used for drinking water for the time being. They'll either be replaced, disconnected, taped off, or restricted to hand-washing only.
The province has been providing bottled water to 324 of the 370 schools since January, and Churchill said they will continue to do that until the issues are resolved in each school.
Churchill said the issues can vary from the tap itself, to the pipes, to the source water.
The province is procuring touchless water fountains, Churchill said, which will fix any problems related to the taps themselves. He did not have an estimate on the cost.
Despite many pipes in many schools exceeding Health Canada's acceptable maximum of 0.005 mg/L – Central Kings Rural School in Cambridge had a pipe with 4,000 times that amount – Churchill said he has spoken with public health and there is no cause for concern.
"We don't believe there's a reason for the public to be alarmed over this," he said.
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