COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Vincent Massey High School principal Mathew Gustafson says every tap and fountain is flushed for five minutes each morning before school begins.
At least one Brandon school has decided to err on the side of caution, following recent reports of high lead levels in the tap water in some older areas of the city.
Vincent Massey High School principal Mathew Gustafson said every tap and fountain is flushed for five minutes each morning before school begins.
"We flush all of our lines … so that there’s no chance of water that’s been sitting in lines could be consumed," Gustafson said. "We run all of our taps and fountains, any sources of water for five minutes every morning before students or staff get to the school."
Earlier this month, preliminary results of a provincial study showed high lead levels in some older Brandon homes. The city said water in approximately 3,600 homes may be affected. These are homes built before 1950 and are most likely to have lead service connection. The city provided a map with the areas of Brandon that are pre-1950, where lead services still may exist.
Vincent Massey is not part of the affected "blue zone." The school falls into the "green zone," which includes areas built after 1950 when lead services were not used.
Gustafson said they want to be cautious, and ensure the health of students and staff is not compromised, adding the original part of the school is more than 50 years old.
"We know if the water stays in lines, if it sits there for a while then the concentrations may be higher, due to things like solder and things like that," Gustafson said.
"We want to make sure that we have fresh water (so) that we’re guaranteed that it will be well below any guidelines."
When asked if he’s concerned about the impact this may have on the water bill, Gustafson said "the total consumption for those five minutes won’t greatly affect our water bills."
St. Augustine School is in an older area of Brandon, but they are part of the "yellow zone," which means they have had lead services replaced.
As such, the school is not doing anything differently, such as flushing taps. King George School and École New Era School are both in older areas, but may be in the yellow zone as well.
An official with King George said they are waiting for direction from the Brandon School Division.
The provincial pilot project study was undertaken in 2012. It looked at the lead levels in tap water in select homes and buildings in Brandon, Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach.
So far, 11 out of 20 homes have been tested in Brandon. The provincial standard for lead concentration in drinking water is 10 micrograms per litre. The homes tested ranged from 0.5 to 49.5 micrograms per litre.
Results of the other nine homes are expected in the next week or two, according to a spokesperson with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.
The city’s deputy director of engineering, Patrick Pulak, recommends flushing water for a few minutes if people are worried about elevated levels of lead in the water.
Another recommendation is for homeowners to purchase a tap filter that has a lead reduction certified filter. The permanent solution is to replace the lead water service.
More than 220 people have picked up water testing kits from the City of Brandon, which are available for $20 for homeowners in the affected area, or $45 to those who do not have lead services.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 20, 2013