Since 2007, the Ontario Safe Water Drinking Act (Reg. 243/07 Schools, Private Schools and Day Nurseries) has required school boards to flush the cold water plumbing on a daily or weekly basis, maintain flushing logs, take annual water samples, and report drinking water test results to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). Some of these results were recently posted on the Ministry website and have attracted media attention. Many staff and parents are concerned that they were previously not informed and did not feel that bagged water fountains and handwashing only signs were sufficient notification. The Ministry of Education has written a memo to Directors of Education stating, “As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, the Ministry of Education expects parents and guardians are to be made aware in a timely manner of all situations where a lead exceedance has been detected in the drinking water of a school or child care centre, and how the exceedance will be addressed”.
On July 1, 2017, the regulation was amended to require all school boards to take a water sample from every tap used for consumption and food preparation and from all fountains used by children under the age of 18. This phased-in sampling of all required sample points will be completed by the January 1, 2022 deadline.
The Ontario drinking water quality standard, based on the National Health Canada guideline, is 10 micrograms per litre. Lead is a naturally occurring toxic heavy metal with a number of applications. Lead in drinking water is likely dissolved from the solder used in older plumbing. Even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially to infants, young children and pregnant women. Long term exposure to lower levels of lead may cause developmental delays and other deficits. If you are concerned about lead exposure, your doctor can conduct a simple blood test to measure your blood lead level.
If you have concerns, you have the right to request information from your Principal/Supervisor or discuss strategies with the worker members of your Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC).
The Employer must provide the JHSC:
- access to a copy of the lead testing results and water flushing records since 2008 indicating which taps were included,
- consultation about any future water testing,
- an opportunity for a worker member of a JHSC to attend at the beginning of testing in order to validate the results,
- technical information about the type of filtration systems installed on water coolers or drinking fountains.