Water Testing Results and Protocols

Vancouver School Board (VSB) is committed to ensuring a safe supply of water to students and staff.  

Lead levels are extremely low in Vancouver’s water supply, particularly since Metro Vancouver started to neutralize its water in 2011. That same year, and again in 2015, VSB conducted random water tests, which showed lead levels within or below acceptable levels (.01 parts per million).  

In 2016, VSB worked with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to test water outlets at 87 of its 110 schools. Samples were taken at schools built before 1990, when the use of lead solder in pipes was removed in the BC plumbing code. Results showed that 94 per cent of samples were within acceptable levels of lead for safe drinking water. Retests after water was run until cold showed all samples tested within acceptable levels for safe drinking water. Certified lab data of all VSB’s 2016 results is available.

Earlier this year, Vancouver Coastal Health amended its advice to schools to say that where drinking fountains need to be flushed, water must be run for five minutes or until cold. For schools where water has previously tested at or above acceptable levels for lead, this flushing must be done daily. For other schools, it is weekly. 

Because it is not possible for VSB’s building engineers to flush every water source in a school for five minutes daily, the district closed off many drinking fountains at the schools built before 1990 where water lines had not been replaced recently through seismic upgrading. Reducing the number of fountains at each school should increase the use of remaining fountains, cutting the average time water sits in pipes. 

The provincial government now requires school districts to complete lead content testing on all school facilities once every three years, so a minimum of one-third of the school facilities in a school district’s inventory must be tested each year.  

VSB has tested all remaining drinking fountains as per Ministry guidelines. In 2016, VSB and VCH tested 254 water outlets (more than one-third of the total). Twelve were found to be at or above acceptable levels and those 12 were turned off. In 2017, VSB tested an additional 358 drinking fountains (the remaining two-thirds, a year ahead of Ministry requirements). Twenty of the test results from 2017 showed results that were at or above acceptable levels, and all of those fountains have since been closed. Certified lab data of all VSB’s results for 2017 testing is available.

Every one of VSB’s schools has at least one drinking fountain per floor that is working and was tested within the past two years to be within acceptable levels. 

VSB also placed signs at all sinks in affected schools advising that water should be run for five minutes or until cold before consumption. 

Whenever old pipes are replaced for any reason, such as during renovations, seismic upgrades or new school construction, copper pipe that contains no lead solder is used. 

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