Rossland water issues resurface

School District 20 board of trustees opted to postpone decision on a long-term solution for their water quality issues.

The school board threw a wrench into turning on the tap for a project to replace the lead saturated water pipes of Rossland’s two schools.

In their inaugural meeting Monday night at Trail Middle School, the School District No. 20 (Kootenay-Columbia) board of trustees opted to postpone decision on recommendations arising out of a commissioned report outlining options dealing with deteriorating water quality at the school.

The board had been advised by district staff they should “re-pipe the water service main from the street and re-pipe cold water distribution within the schools to points of consumption” as the recommended course of action.

SD20 assistant director of operations, Heather Simms, told the board the report’s author, Stantec, noted that option was cheaper than re-piping the entire school but could still be a long-term solution to the problem.

Currently, students in the schools use bottled water supplied by SD20.

At a cost of $64,000 for Maclean Elementary and $127,000 for Rossland Secondary, trustee Toni Driutti asked if changing the pipes would finally resolve the issue of the high lead saturation level in the water.

“Who is going to guarantee to us that if we spend this kind of money, that the problem will be fixed? Is there a guarantee?” she asked.

“It doesn’t come with a guarantee,” said Simms.

The money was proposed to come out of the annual facilities grant, non-shareable capital reserves or a request be sent to the Ministry of Education for emergent capital or regular capital project.

Trustee Mark Wilson balked at the figures thrown around and asked that the matter be referred to the finance and facilities committee for more research, postponing a decision on it at the board level.

He framed the issue by asking what the future of the two Rossland schools would be, and felt a postponement was necessary until that question was answered.

But the issue of elevated levels of lead in the two school’s water supply had been booted around at the board table since March, 2009, said trustee Mickey Kinakin.

Since then, several solutions have been tried, including replacing plumbing within the school fountains, placing filters at the fountains, as well as a commercial water filter installed at the source in Maclean Elementary.

“This issue needs to be addressed now, not spun around the mulberry bush one more time,” he said.

His plea was ignored.  The board voted in favour of postponement and referral to the committee, to be brought back to the board at a later date for final decision.

In the commissioned report, elevated lead levels, above those permitted by Health Canada guidelines, were found in all 10 water samples analyzed, as well as both solder samples.

Some piping in RSS was noted to be galvanized. “Though not analyzed, the zinc coating also most likely contains lead,” the Stantec report read.