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Drinking water at all public schools in Surrey is safe, and regularly tested to ensure lead levels are lower than Health Canada's recommended limit of 5 parts per billion (ppb).
There has been a lot of interest from parents and the community about water quality within the Surrey School District. This interest stems from an investigation that Global News conducted in partnership with Concordia University's Institute for Investigative Journalism and other media organizations. The data used for this study is from 2016.
Lead is not naturally occurring in water but can leach out of plumbing fixtures as the water sits stagnant over long periods of time. Structures built prior to 1990 have a greater potential to have lead in water due to construction practices at the time. There are 65 schools across the district that were built prior to 1990.
Over the past three years, Surrey Schools has launched a comprehensive safe drinking water program that includes regular testing and wide-ranging mitigation strategies. This includes routine testing of more than 1,900 water dispensing sites at the 65 schools, installation of water filtration systems, new drinking fountains, faucets, and automatic flushing stations that run daily to limit the potential for water to become stagnant.
The district has also begun replacing pipes at the 65 sites, with one already completed. The 64 other schools will all have pipes replaced in the coming years.
"Surrey Schools is committed to fostering a safe and healthy school environment," explained Laurie Larsen, Chairperson of the Surrey Board of Education. "We made a decision in 2016 to improve the water systems in all of our schools and not just meet the minimum expectations, but to go above and beyond to reduce potential lead sources in our schools."