Water testing in Peel schools
The health and safety of your child is our top priority. That's why, each year, the Peel District School Board conducts regular testing of water sources used for drinking or food preparation, including water-filling stations, water fountains and sinks.
If flushed lead levels exceed the provincial standard of 10 parts per billion (ppm), your child's school will:
- Immediately indicate the water source as "out of service" by bagging the fixture and posting a "Do Not Drink Water" sign until the issue is resolved.
- Take corrective actions, determined by Peel Public Health, to reduce lead levels.
- Inform families via letter or broadcast notice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is lead and how are people exposed to it?
Lead is a naturally occurring element. Lead has many industrial uses and has been found in water systems since the late 1800s. It is also present in soil, food and indoor dust.
What is the drinking water quality standard for lead?
Provincial law requires water used for drinking or cooking to contain no more than 10 parts per billion (ppb) of lead.
In March 2019, Health Canada recommended 5ppb as the maximum acceptable limit for lead concentration in drinking water, however, the provincial recommendation in Ontario (which governs schools in Ontario) remains at 10ppb.
How does lead get into drinking water?
Ontario's surface and groundwater generally does not contain lead. If lead does occur naturally, the concentrations are typically extremely low and below the drinking water standard for lead. Where there are concentrations of lead in drinking water above the standard, the likely cause is from the lead pipes servicing the facility or nearby area, or lead solder used in the plumbing or fixtures.
What tests are done in Peel schools to check for lead in water?
The Peel board has strict testing protocols that operate in accordance with provincial legislation. Following all provincial procedures, tests for lead are done in two steps. The first test is taken of standing water (a tap that has been 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 called a flushed sample. The flushed sample is then tested for lead.
What steps are taken when lead levels exceed provincial standards?
If a lead exceedance of more than 10 ppb is found in a school, the local Medical Officer of Health is notified, and will review and/or assign corrective action(s). This may involve taking the fixture out of service, increasing flushing, replacing the fixture or plumbing lines, or permanently rendering the fixture unusable. If necessary, while this work takes place, the school will make alternate arrangements to ensure staff and students have access to another water source.
Standing exceedances can typically be resolved by implementing a daily flushing schedule for the school under the direction of the local Medical Officer of Health. If a flushed exceedance has been identified, a notice is sent to immediately take the fixture "out of service" by covering it with a bag and posting a "Do Not Drink Water" sign. We will not return a fixture to service until lead levels are below provincial requirements in two consecutive flushed resamples.
What are some ways to fix high lead levels?
Flushing (running the tap for an extended period of time) has been shown to reduce lead levels in drinking water fixtures. By flushing plumbing and fixtures, water that may have come in contact with lead is replaced with fresh water. In Peel, routine flushing is completed weekly at every school at a minimum. Daily flushing schedules are implemented at some schools based on the requirements of Ontario Regulation 243/07.
As parents or community members, how will we know if the school water is safe?
Schools with lead levels above the provincial standard will inform families by sending home a letter or broadcast message. If you did not receive a notice this year, that means your school's lead levels did not exceed provincial requirements. You can review your school's lead results by visiting your school office.
How can I find out the lead test results for my school?
As per Ontario Regulation 243/07, each school keeps a copy of their lead test results in the office. If you would like to review the report, please speak with your principal.
When are tests for lead conducted?
Lead testing, also known as sampling, is conducted between May and October on an annual basis. After all drinking water fixtures have been sampled at least once, we will test at least one tap or fountain from each school—on a rotational basis—once annually. In some cases, schools will be tested every three years where requirements for reduced sampling have been met.
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