Sidney Elementary School gets $200,000 for upgrades

Sidney Elementary will use recently-announced provincial funds for plumbing upgrades.

Principal of Sidney Elementary School Tom Vickers kneels by one of the school’s water fountains. The school received $200

Students at Sidney Elementary School will soon benefit from school upgrades, thanks to $200,000 in provincial School Enhancement Program funding.

When the water quality at the school was tested last spring, elevated levels of lead were identified in the drinking water during pre-flushing activity in the water lines.

“For many years we’ve had flushing procedures in place where administrators have procedures where they flush lines. But what happens is schools that were constructed prior to 1990 before a change in the building code, the solder in the plumbing has lead in it,” said Jason Reid, secretary treasurer with the Saanich School District.

He said when the water sits in the pipes overnight, lead leaches into it.

The pre-flushing test determined there were 10.3 micrograms of lead per litre, which is just above the Canada Drinking Water Standards, which has a limit of 10.

“So once the water was flushed, then the water samples were below the limit, so it wasn’t a big issue,” Reid said. “But the board at that time decided that reliance on manual procedures wasn’t ideal, so they asked us to look at other solutions so we looked at a couple options.

“Ultimately what we’ve decided to do in all of our schools impacted … we’re installing water filtration and that’ll address the issue.”

Reid added there’s ongoing maintenance involved in that.

This fall the B.C. Ministry of Education had an additional call for funding for smaller enhancement projects. The District applied to have the plumbing fixtures at Sidney Elementary replaced. The replacement would then permanently address the water quality issue.

And it’s not just Sidney that’s getting the fix.

The government announced an extra $20 million in funding in September and as a result, 217 school improvement projects have been approved throughout the rest of the province. Out of those, 122 schools will use the funding to upgrade their plumbing lines and fixtures.

“I think it’s a fantastic addition to our school. I think that our building is finally catching up to the (innovations) that we’re doing inside of the building. We’ve been one of the schools that has been last for renovations, so it’s our time,” said Sidney Elementary School Principal Tom Vickers.

He said the District has been thoughtful in testing the water in schools older than a certain age.

“So anything newer they didn’t have to get tested,” he said, “but anything older they did and so we got a report.

“All of (our water was) within safety limits but the board felt that it was important to start the process of replacing water lines.”

Vickers said the District is almost done completing the installation of lead filtration, which was worked on over the summer.

Ten more schools in the District will also receive lead filtration systems.

“We’re also looking at re-piping all of our schools over time, so we’ve chosen Sidney as the first site because it had the higher lead readings,” Reid said. “But we hope over the next number of years that we’ll be able to do it at other schools as well, as funding is approved.”