Education

Water testing in Yukon schools

Water testing

In summer 2018, the Government of Yukon tested drinking water fountains and sink taps in Yukon schools built before 1990 for lead levels.

Lead is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in low levels in the environment. Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water and various consumer products.

Lead was commonly used in plumbing materials (including drinking fountains and sink taps) before 1988 when national building standards changed to reduce the use of lead. As a result, schools built before 1990 may have water fixtures and plumbing materials that contain lead. Lead from the water fixtures and plumbing materials can leach into the water when it sits in the water system for longer periods.

At the advice of Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Yukon government took steps to test all water fixtures at all schools built before 1990. Schools built after 1990 will be tested during the second phase of testing in summer 2019.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health advises that there is no short-term risk to health associated with water fixtures with levels above the national standards. National standards are based on exposure to lead over a lifetime, and children drink water from multiple sources. Occasional consumption of water from these fixtures will not be enough to significantly affect the health of students or staff. However, the Government of Yukon is taking steps to reduce the amount of lead that students in Yukon schools are exposed to and will be upgrading the affected water fixtures to bring lead levels to as low as possible.

In cases where test results indicate lead levels above the national standards the water fixtures will be replaced and any new fixtures will be retested to check the new fixture. Drinking water fountains will be taken out of order until they are replaced. Water fixtures in bathrooms and classrooms will remain in use until they can be replaced, with signs indicating they are safe for washing, but not drinking.

The Government of Yukon does not anticipate any impact on school programming.

More information from Health Canada:

Results for schools tested in summer 2018

The chart below indicates the number of fixtures identified for replacement and the mitigation work that has taken place. If a drinking water fountain or kitchen sink tap tested above the limit, it is identified beside the number of fixtures. Otherwise, fixtures include classroom and bathroom sink taps. This chart will be updated as work progresses.

Results are still coming in for some schools and will be posted as received.

School Number of water fixtures identified for replacement Upgrade work completed
Christ the King Elementary 3
Eliza Van Bibber 26 (2 drinking water fountains; 4 kitchen sinks) Drinking fountains shut off
Golden Horn Elementary 5  
Ghùch Tlâ Community School 16 (4 kitchen sinks)  
Grey Mountain Primary 1 (1 drinking water fountain) Drinking fountain shut off
Jack Hulland Elementary 14  
Johnson Elementary  Waiting on results  
Kluane Lake 0  None required
Nelnah Bessie John 1 (1 drinking water fountain) Drinking fountain shut off
Porter Creek Secondary 20  
Robert Service School 34 (1 drinking water fountain; 1 kitchen sink) Drinking fountain shut off
Selkirk Elementary 7  
St. Elias Community School 1  
Takhini Elementary 2  
Khàtìnas.àxh (Teslin) Community School 6 (1 kitchen sink)  
Vanier Catholic Secondary 16  
Whitehorse Elementary 3  
Wood Street Centre 6 (1 drinking fountain)  Drinking fountain shut off