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Lead levels in the drinking water at British Columbia’s 119-year-old legislature are allegedly more than five times above provincial and federal standards. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Lead levels in the drinking water at British Columbia’s 119-year-old legislature are allegedly more than five times above provincial and federal standards. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Water tests find elevated levels of lead at B.C. legislature, MLA says Add to ...

Lead levels in the drinking water at British Columbia’s 119-year-old legislature are more than five times above provincial and federal standards, says an Independent member of the legislature who recently sent water samples to a laboratory for tests.

Vicki Huntington said Tuesday she decided to test the drinking water after complaints about its quality from staff and recent reports of elevated lead levels in northern B.C. schools. “My staff has found the taste of the water somewhat metallic here and bugged me unmercifully to let them get the water tested, which I finally agreed to, and lo and behold is 5 1/2 times the maximum allowed concentration of lead.”

Ms. Huntington wants the government to test water quality in all aging public buildings. That includes schools, she said, because parents need to know the water their children drink is safe.

Ms. Huntington said she and her staff took water from her office and a men’s washroom.

“We took [water] from my staff office, and admittedly it had been sitting all weekend, but it doesn’t diminish the fact we have a problem with lead in our water in this building,” she said.

Ms. Huntington said she advised the Speaker of her findings, adding that experts say the lead level indicates the need to flush the pipes and conduct further tests.

In a statement, Speaker Linda Reid assured members of the legislature and staff that she takes water-quality questions seriously.

“Recognizing that the parliament buildings have extensive copper and lead piping, the assembly regularly tests water quality and flushes pipes,” the statement says.

Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall said the regular flushing of water systems in older buildings, including the legislature, reduces lead levels in drinking water.

Health officials in southern British Columbia have been aware for at least the past 25 years that water systems require regular flushing, especially on Monday mornings when water has sat in pipes for hours, he said.

Dr. Kendall recommended legislature employees drink bottled water when available.

Last month, School District 52 in Prince Rupert warned parents of students at four local schools that elevated levels of lead were found in the drinking water. The district said it started regular flushing and was installing filtration devices at drinking areas.

In 2012, a teacher’s concern in nearby Kitimat about dying salmon eggs in a classroom aquarium experiment found elevated levels of copper and lead killed the fish.

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