Lead Testing of Water Systems

Lead Testing of Water Systems
Posted on 11/06/2019
Lead Testing of Water Systems

The media has recently released a report on water quality in the province. This has included a database of Ontario schools and identifies the number and percentage of tests for lead in comparison to Health Canada recommendations. It should be noted that the data is not current and that all of our elementary schools are in compliance with the requirements of Ontario’s Safe Drinking Water Act.

Trace amounts of lead in water can be harmful to children and adults. Provincial law requires water used for drinking or cooking to contain no more than 10 parts per billion of lead. Typically, lead can leach from older water mains, piping or water fixtures. While measures have been taken to update systems, a risk still exists.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board takes the health and safety of students and staff extremely seriously. In accordance with expanded testing requirements in 2017, all designated drinking locations in OCDSB elementary schools were tested in 2017 and 2018 and the expanded testing in secondary schools will be completed this winter. All of our schools are currently in compliance with provincial legislation and regulations.

Tests follow established guidelines in two steps. The first test is taken of standing water (unused for six hours). We then run the water fixture for five minutes (a procedure called “flushing”) and take another sample a half hour later.

This is done as lead contamination in even minor levels can occur as water sits in pipes overnight.

If the exceedance is only in the standing sample, but the flushed sample is acceptable, then a daily flushing regimen is adopted.  

If both samples exceed the provincial standard, the water fixture is taken out of service to respond to the problem. This could include replacement of the fixture or, in some cases, moving further back through plumbing lines.

We will not return a fixture to service until lead levels in drinking water are below provincial requirements.

Our testing results and actions to address issues found are shared with the Ontario government, Ottawa Public Health and are also posted to the OCDSB website. 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.

We understand and share parents’ concerns about any exceedance. It should be noted that in some cases, the high percentage of failed tests is related to our efforts at resolving the issue and retesting until the problem is remedied.

We continue to work with the provincial government, the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health to ensure drinking water in OCDSB schools is safe for students and staff.

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