WATER that prompted a health alert at high schools built on a toxic dump contained three times the legal level of copper, we can reveal.
Tests found tap water breached safety standards in a school kitchen, staff room and home economics class.
Pupils and teachers at Buchanan High and St Ambrose High schools in Coatbridge were told not to drink tap water in December – three years after teachers first warned it was running blue.
The schools share a campus, which was built on a former landfill site for industrial waste.
North Lanarkshire Council has blamed the problem on copper in the water due to potential corrosion of pipework.
Now the results of testing carried out in November show the amount of copper in the water was more than three times the permitted levels in the home economics room and nearly double in the school kitchen.
The tests also revealed water in the staff room and the school kitchen failed to meet regulated standards because of the presence of coliforms – bacteria which indicates faecal contamination.
Teachers have raised concerns over the blue water issue affecting their health, with figures showing Buchanan High has the highest rate for teacher sickness absence in North Lanarkshire.
A report in March last year revealed the extent of the issue – noting it was “all throughout” St Ambrose High and in areas of Buchanan High.
READ MORE: Tap water ban imposed for staff and children at North Lanarkshire schools built on former toxic dump
Fulton MacGregor, MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, who raised the issue during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood last week, said the testing showed there was “clearly an issue”.
He said: “It is concerning that the levels of copper found back at the end of last year were so high and also that there was bacteria found to be present.
“The relevant agencies appear to be giving the situation their close attention, with work well underway to replace the corroded pipework.
“But legitimate questions do remain over what is causing this in the first place. We need longer term reassurances that there will not be a reoccurrence.”
An analysis of the coliform levels in the water from the school kitchen and staff room concluded that the samples did not meet with the requirements of water supply regulations.
Leading microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington said: “There shouldn’t be any coliforms in drinking water, there should be zero – so there is something wrong somewhere.
“Coliforms themselves are a harmless bug, but they indicate faecal contamination.”
North Lanarkshire Council said further sampling in these areas had confirmed the water supply was not contaminated.
It said the issue could have been caused by cross-contamination – such as someone touching the tap before washing their hands.
A spokesman said following the high copper levels revealed in the test results, action was taken to replace copper pipping and flush the system to reduce the concentration levels.
He said: “The pipes in the kitchen were replaced on 10 December and tests show the water is within the required standard.
“Work is being carried out to replace the pipes in the home economics department this weekend.
“Bottled water has been provided to schools from 23 November 2018.
“The water system has been flushed three times over the course of the day since we were made aware of the results in November.”
The council spokesman also said work to replace copper pipework with plastic piping throughout the school buildings is now 95% complete and is due to be finished this month.
He added: “Samples have been taken from all areas where pipes have been replaced and they confirm action being taken has addressed the issue.
“On completion we will continue to undertake further water sampling to provide reassurance that the action taken has addressed the issue.”
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