Elevated levels of lead found in tap water at Perth schools

Stock image.
Stock image.

EDUCATION Minister Sue Ellery says she is ‘angry’ testing of lead levels at new public schools has not been completed prior to the start of term today.

Bottled water is being delivered to five new schools opening in Perth today after elevated levels of lead was found in the tap water.

Meanwhile the Education Department is still awaiting results of tests at Rapids Landing, Aveley North, Southern Grove and Doubleview primary schools as well as Aveley Secondary College.

Yesterday afternoon the Education Department and minister’s office were unable to confirm to Community News whether results for testing lead at the new schools had been completed.

Talking to reporters this morning, Ms Ellery said the testing had not been implemented by Education and Building Management and Works in time to generate results by the start of the school year.

“I am deeply disappointed in the event,” she said.

“I became aware of this at 3.15pm yesterday as I was about to get on a plane out of Broome, so I had two and a half hours on a plane before I could get into my ministerial office about 6pm and get across the details.

“I am deeply, deeply disappointed that when my office checked last week, that I was not advised there was even a possibility that we would not meet the deadline.

“I think given the announcement made in October last year, if there was any question that we could not get this information by the start of school today, I should have been advised by the Education Department.”

The Department of Education’s director general Sharyn O’Neill said results received from water testing at six new public schools found no adverse samples in any drinking outlets.

“Initial tests conducted by the Department of Finance’s Building Management and Works found some taps in work areas, such as external hose taps and work sinks, showed slightly elevated levels of lead. Subsequent testing, however, showed no elevated levels in water from these taps,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Any taps with inconsistent results will be off-limits to students and staff while further testing is undertaken.”

The Department said it expected test results from the remaining five new schools in coming days.

“While I am awaiting the results from the remaining five schools, I have been reassured by health officials that short term consumption of the drinking water poses no health risks.

“However as a precautionary measure, bottled water will be provided to those schools for drinking and hand washing until results are received and the appropriate response is developed.

“Senior Education and Health Department officers will work together on all preliminary test results that have been provided by the Department of Finance’s Building Management and Works (BMW), which is standard practice.”

This is the first time all newly constructed public schools have been tested for lead in taps.

The testing was ordered after concerns were raised last year by ChemCentre boss Peter McCafferty at a Parliamentary inquiry into the Perth Children’s Hospital which examined a suite of problems that have delayed the opening of the $1.2 billion hospital, including lead contamination in the drinking water.

The State Government has blamed the brass fittings in pipes exposed to water left stagnant during commissioning for the hospital’s lead contamination.

Mr McCafferty told the inquiry the same brass fittings at the centre of the lead problem could have been used in schools which were potentially at risk after the summer holidays.

In addition to this, all public schools, including newly constructed schools, were required to carry out an extensive flushing regime of water pipes prior to students returning to school today.

Schools tested:

Fremantle College – testing complete, no elevated lead levels.
Aspiri Primary School – 1 tap in gardener’s store showing inconsistent results.
Yanchep Secondary College – 1 work sink showing inconsistent results.
Oakwood Primary School – 1 external hose tap showing inconsistent results.
Wellard Primary School – 3 activity sinks showing inconsistent results.
Honeywood Primary School – 4 activity sinks showing inconsistent results.
Rapids Landing Primary School – awaiting results.
Aveley North Primary School – awaiting results.
Aveley Secondary College – awaiting results.
Doubleview Primary School – awaiting results.
Southern Grove Primary School – awaiting results.