Thursday, February 18, 2016

MLA Rice raises School District lead levels issue in Legislature

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice
raised the SD52 water issues in
the Legislature on Wednesday
The revelations of Tuesday from SD52 and Northern Health related to the findings of increased levels of lead in water at some of the District's schools, was brought up in the Legislature on Wednesday.

With North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice making note of the issue during the Wednesday Question Period.

The Opposition NDP quickly seized on the issue, making it a featured part of the afternoon opportunity for discussion in the Legislature, with a number of MLA's taking the issue to Health Minister Terry Lake.

Ms. Rice provided a short overview of the situation in Prince Rupert and then addressed a question to the Minister of Education.

Yesterday, the parents of school children in school district 52 received a shocking letter. They were informed that their children had been drinking water with lead levels in excess of Health Canada guidelines. 

Four schools were tested and three elementary schools and one middle school in Prince Rupert had lead levels beyond the maximum acceptable level. They were informed that in order to address this problem, the district would begin flushing school water pipes and installing filtered water fountains. Parents want to know what the health impact on their children might be. 

Can the Minister of Education tell the House how long he has known that school children in my riding have been exposed to drinking contaminated water?

Minister Terry Lake did not directly address that question on that theme of a timeline, but did make note that the health authority on the North Coast had taken measures to address the issue in question, adding that the province will ensure that water is safe to drink in the schools of Prince Rupert.

Ms. Rice followed up on those comments still looking for a more complete answer as to how long the province knew about the situation, making note of the various levels found in the water at Prince Rupert schools.

Two other NDP MLA's Jodie Wickens, the recently elected MLA who represents the Coquitlam-Burke Mountain riding and Rob Fleming from Victoria-Swan Lake both picked up the discussion as well, asking a number of other questions on whether the province would outline if other schools in the Northwest have been tested and if the results from those findings will be released.

The NDP members also called attention to the current recommendations in place in Prince Rupert, where residents if concerned about their own homes, are being told to purchase water testing kits at 29 dollars each, to test the water in their own homes.

That observation was followed up by Mr. Fleming, who called for mandatory provincial testing in the schools in the province.

In reply, the Health Minister returned to the findings of the School District/Northern health report, noting that  Northern Health worked with the School District to ensure that there was a system in place to protect the children at the schools. Adding that the water supply in Prince Rupert is absolutely fine and that it's an issue related to the age of buildings whether they be school buildings, residential buildings or others.

You can review the full exchange from the Draft Minutes of Wednesday afternoon's Question Period here, the topic runs from the 1435 mark to just before the 1445 point.

You can also view the Question Period discussion from the Legislature's Video Archive, see the Wednesday Question Period portal here.

For more items related to the work of MLA Rice in Victoria see our archive page here.

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