Government Advisory Group to Monitor School Drinking Water Tests
Environment and Labour (to April 1/08)
June 14, 2002 2:02 PM
The Department of Environment and Labour announced today, June
14, that it will lead an interdepartmental advisory group to
oversee the ongoing testing of well water at Sir John A.
Macdonald High School and 13 schools in the area.
The chair of the Special Advisory Group on Drinking Water Testing
said the team, in consultation with Health Canada, will focus on
establishing protocols for the remaining water tests, including
how often the tests should be performed, and for communicating
the findings to the students, teachers and residents in the
"Clearly this is an important issue for the communities, and it
will be our job to make sure that the tests being conducted
conform to the recommended Health Canada guidelines," said Pat
Wall, senior radiation health officer for the Department of
Environment and Labour and chair of the new advisory group.
The committee will include representatives from the provincial
departments of Health, Environment and Labour, and Education,
along with a specialist from Health Canada.
If required, the advisory panel will also recommend methods for
treating water that may be found to contain levels of naturally
occurring radionuclides that exceed Health Canada's drinking
"It's important to remember that treatment methods are available
for removing naturally occurring radionuclides to bring well
water within safe drinking limits," Mr. Wall said. "Trace amounts
of radionuclides are found everywhere -- in Nova Scotia, across
Canada and around the world."
Meanwhile, the latest lab tests of the drinking water at Sir John
A. Macdonald submitted last week found that the level of lead-210
is well below Canadian drinking water guidelines.
"This is an encouraging result, but we'll need to continue
testing in order to get a complete picture," said Mr. Wall.
Lead-210 is one of several naturally occurring radioactive by-
products of uranium.
As part of its mandate, the advisory group will oversee the
testing now underway at the 13 schools. These tests for naturally
occurring radionuclides in well water were requested May 29 by
the Department of Education and the Halifax Regional School Board
as a precautionary measure following earlier test results that
found levels of lead-210 at Sir John A. above Canadian drinking
The results from the screening tests at the 13 schools indicated
that, according to Health Canada guidelines, more detailed tests
of certain radionuclides, including lead-210, will be required.
The province's medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, has
been involved in the testing and confirms there is no public
health risk for people to drinking the water during the period of
Mr. Wall cautioned that screening tests are used only to
determine if more comprehensive testing is needed: they do not
give an accurate indication of health risks.
"Screening tests are very vague," Mr. Wall explained. "They're
snapshots and are simply used to determine if more thorough
testing is needed. In other words, they're not meant to tell us
if the water is unsafe to drink."
The 13 schools are Brookside Junior High, Tantallon Junior High,
Tantallon Elementary, Terence Bay Elementary, Atlantic Memorial
Elementary, East St. Margaret's Elementary, St. Margaret's Bay
Elementary, Harrietsfield Elementary, Sambro Elementary, William
King Elementary, Herring Cove Junior High, Prospect Road
Elementary and Hammonds Plains Consolidated.
FOR BROADCAST USE:
The Department of Environment and Labour will lead an
advisory group to oversee the testing of well water at Sir John
A. Macdonald High School and 13 schools in the area.
The Special Advisory Group on Drinking Water Testing will
work with Health Canada. Its role is to make sure that the tests
being conducted conform to Health Canada guidelines. It
will also communicate the findings to the students, teachers and
residents in the testing areas.
The committee will include representatives from the
provincial departments of Health, Environment and Labour, and
Education, and a specialist from Health Canada.
The group was formed following concerns about levels of
lead-210 found in drinking water at Sir John A. Subsequent
testing has shown that the levels are now within Health Canada
guidelines for safe drinking water but that further tests will be
Contact: Robert Moffat
Environment and Labour
Department of Education
njm June 14, 2002 2:00 P.M.