OCDSB Statement: Lead testing

OCDSB Statement: Lead testing
Posted on 06/12/2024
OCDSB Statement: Lead testing

Ensuring access to safe drinking water is one of the safety practices in place at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Any fixture installed for water consumption purposes must be tested for lead prior to use in accordance with The Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 and OReg 243/07 2017 amendments. The OCDSB has also been proactively replacing drinking fountains that exceed the Health Canada recommendation of 5 ppm and are within the Ontario requirements of 10 ppb. 

Since 2017, in accordance with provincial legislation, all designated drinking locations in OCDSB elementary and secondary schools have been tested.

Testing is based on the provincial standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Where water samples were found to exceed the provincial standard, action has been taken to address this. The action taken is based on the results of the water sample. For example, where the exceedance is in the standing water sample only, and the sample after flushing water is acceptable, then a daily flushing regimen is adopted. If both the standing water and the sample after flushing exceed the provincial standard, the water fixture is taken out of service to respond to the problem, in accordance with provincial regulations. 

Water fixtures are not returned to service until lead levels in drinking water are below provincial requirements. 

If fixtures are taken out of service, they are made inaccessible through signage, turned off and are only put back into use once we have been able to obtain satisfactory test results. Addressing issues could include replacement of the fixture or, in some cases, moving further back through plumbing lines or adding a lead filter. 

Through this process, multiple water tests may be taken to determine whether or not a single problem has been fixed. According to the raw data of Ontario test results, this may give the impression that there are multiple separate exceedances, when in fact this may result from several tests taken to fix one problem. 

We take issues of safe drinking water seriously. Any water points which have been discovered through past test results to exceed provincial limits have since been fixed.

At the same time, we are concerned that recent reports on this serious issue have been presented in a misleading way. By compiling all test results together and not identifying the number of water points that have been taken out of service and fixed, a report highlighted in the media gives the impression that issues are not resolved or more water points are affected (versus one fixture that has been closed and repeatedly tested as staff fix the problem).

Our testing results and actions to address issues found are shared with the Ontario government and Ottawa Public Health and are also posted to the OCDSB website. We continue to work with the provincial government and municipal authorities to ensure drinking water in OCDSB schools is safe for students and staff.

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