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This article was published 22/2/2016 (1681 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
VICTORIA - Dead salmon eggs in a northern British Columbia classroom should raise concerns about the safety of drinking water in schools, but the government appears to be downplaying the fears of parents, says Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan.
Elevated levels of lead above Health Canada guidelines have been found in school water systems in Kitimat and Prince Rupert, but Health Minister Terry Lake is telling parents not to worry, Horgan said Monday.
"If I were a parent, I'd be extremely concerned," he said. "We need to be looking at a whole host of schools in the northwest, where there's some of the oldest buildings in the province. If we have troubles in one, it's quite likely we're going to have troubles in all of them."
Parents of students at four Prince Rupert schools received letters from the school district last week telling them elevated levels of lead above Health Canada guidelines were found in the school water. The school district responded by installing filters on water fountains and flushing the water system each morning.
North Coast New Democrat Jennifer Rice, who represents Prince Rupert and surrounding communities, said she's received calls from parents who fear their children are at risk of lead poisoning from drinking water at school.
She said she's also heard from pregnant women with concerns about drinking water in their homes.
Horgan and Rice said the health of school drinking water is not a new issue in the northwest.
Four years ago in nearby Kitimat, a concerned teacher prompted water testing at local schools after a classroom experiment to raise salmon eggs in an aquarium ended in repeated failures. The tests found the eggs were killed by elevated levels of copper and lead in the water.
A district-wide investigation then found varied levels of lead and copper in drinking water in other Kitimat schools, but the water in Prince Rupert schools was not tested until late last year.
"The government shouldn't be turning a blind eye and waiting for fish to die in a science experiment," Horgan said.
Lake said he is meeting with Education Minister Mike Bernier to examine the water quality issue.
Blood tests taken from children in the north between 2009 and 2011 indicated no series health issues connected to the water issue, said Lake.
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