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.

Health information

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 many sources. Occasionally drinking water from these fixtures would 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.

Next steps

In cases where test results indicate lead levels above the national standards, the water fixtures will be replaced. 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. Specific values obtained during testing are available for each school. Click to view the PDF.

Results reports

Testing procedure

The purpose of the testing was to identify which water fixtures might be leaching lead into the water at our schools and need upgrading. This is a pass/fail test. It does not represent the average concentration of lead in the drinking water as lead levels drop when water is flushed and we see lower results at some fixtures that don’t need to be replaced. Fixtures that test above the 20 micrograms per litre (ug/L) level did not pass the test and have been identified for replacement.

The testing procedure is as follows:

  • Water was flushed at every water fixture.
  • It was left to sit stagnate in the water system for 16-24 hours to allow for the maximum amount of lead leaching.
  • A 250 ml standing sample was then taken from every water fixture.
  • A second 250 ml flushed sample was taken from some water fixtures following a 30 second flush.
  • A main water sample was also taken from some schools.
  • Water samples were sent to Caro Analytical Services in Richmond, B.C. for testing.
  • Results were sent back to Department of Education for action.
Water samples

Standing sample: A standing sample or Tier 1 sample is a 250 ml water sample taken from the water fixture after the water sat still in the water system for 16-24 hours to allow for the maximum amount of lead leaching. A standing sample provides a worst case scenario for lead in the water. All water fixtures were sampled this way and the majority of the results shown in the water testing reports are from standing samples.

Flushed sample: Flushed samples or Tier 2 samples were also taken from some water fixtures. They are labelled as “Tier 2” on the reports. A flushed sample is a 250 ml sample taken after the 16-24-hour stagnation time, but following a 30 second flush of the water fixture. Flushed samples were taken at select water fixtures.

Main water sample: Main water samples were also taken from some of the main water lines entering the school building. These sample results are labelled by the name of the school or the community or as “main water” and are the last result appearing in the report. These samples were taken to check the water entering the building to compare it to the water samples coming from the water fixtures. These samples were tested for more than just lead and include information on a variety of minerals and metals that can be found in water. Please see the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines summary table to learn more about minerals and metals in water.

Measurement units

The results you will see in the reports are measured in micrograms per litre (ug/L)*. Any water fixtures that are testing above 20 ug/L are being replaced as per Health Canada’s guidelines for sampling and testing water in schools and other non-residential buildings.

The “RL Units” seen next to the result is the reporting limit. This limit is set at 0.20 ug/L. Any results below this number are simply reported as “<0.20”.

*Lead in water is typically written as either micrograms per litre (ug/L) or milligrams per litre (mg/L)

Fixture labels

Each water fixture tested is labelled. The labels you may see include:

BS or BF: Bathroom sink

CS or CF: Classroom sink

CSF: Classroom sink with fountain

KS or KF: Kitchen sink

S: Sink

DF: Drinking Fountain

HF: Hall Fountain

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 Results report
Christ the King Elementary 3 Report 
Eliza Van Bibber 26 (2 drinking water fountains; 4 kitchen sinks) Drinking fountains shut off

Report 

Report 2  *A second round of testing was completed to obtain flushed samples.

Golden Horn Elementary 5   Report 
Ghùch Tlâ Community School 16 (4 kitchen sinks)  4 kitchen sinks replaced; additional testing will take place when all fixtures replaced.

Report 1 

Report 2 *A second round of tests was done at this school to ensure testing validity.

Grey Mountain Primary 1 (1 drinking water fountain) Drinking fountain shut off Report 
Jack Hulland Elementary 13  

Report 

Report 2  *A second round of testing was completed to obtain flushed samples.

Johnson Elementary  1   Report 
Khàtìnas.àxh (Teslin) Community School 6 (1 kitchen sink)   Report 
Kluane Lake 0  None required Report 
Nelnah Bessie John 1 (1 drinking water fountain) Drinking fountain shut off Report 
Porter Creek Secondary 20  

Report 

Report 2  *A second round of testing was completed to obtain flushed samples.
Robert Service School 34 (1 drinking water fountain; 1 kitchen sink) Drinking fountain shut off

Report 

Report 2  *A second round of testing was completed to obtain flushed samples.
Selkirk Elementary 7  7 fixtures replaced; additional testing being scheduled. Report 
St. Elias Community School 1   Report 
Takhini Elementary 2  2 fixtures replaced; additional tests show clean results.

Report 

Report 2  *Test results following the completion of mitigation work.

Vanier Catholic Secondary 16  

Report 1 

Report 2  *A second round of testing was completed to obtain flushed samples.

Whitehorse Elementary 3  3 fixtures replaced; additional testing being scheduled. Report 
Wood Street Centre 7 (1 drinking fountain) 3 fixtures replaced; water fountain on order; additional testing being scheduled. Report