School’s water quality compromised for too long: parent

Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton has been on a boil-water order in the wake of the Walkerton, Ont. tragedy—and parents are fed up.
“We’ve had the boil order for over a year, since last May. It’s so bad they can’t even wash their hands,” said one parent who wished to remain anonymous because “it’s too small an area. Everyone knows everyone.”
The local school board said it knows the situation is unacceptable and is working to fix it.
“We’re finding various bugs from fecal matter, which is not nice, to other types of bacteria,” noted Chris Howarth, superintendent of business for the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
“The health unit has told us it’s not acceptable.”
The problems with the school’s water system were supposed to be corrected over the summer, but administration said unforeseen delays slowed the process down.
“We check the water in five places in the school and we had one place that was bad,” said Our Lady of the Way principal David Sharp. “An engineer came in and decided what to do—we’re going to cap the well so groundwater can’t get in.
“That’s been done.”
The school also will go from two water tanks to five, and now has two chlorinators.
“We had wanted to do this over the summer but we got held up,” added Sharp.
But parents think the school board is stalling.
“I tried to contact the [board] of education [office] in Dryden,” the parent said. “They’re stalling. A local plumber received the bids only two weeks ago.”
And parents said they were promised there always would be bottled water on hand—another unfulfilled pledge.
“Some days there is bottled water, some days there’s not. Anti-bacterial soap isn’t in the bathrooms,” the parent said. “Our board promised to send water.”
But Sharp said that’s not the case. “We’ve ensured the safety of the kids and bought in treated water and germicidial soap.”
They’re waiting for a pump, which is expected to arrive in about two weeks.
“We’re doing everything so the kids and staff are safe,” Sharp stressed. “I don’t know why things take so long. The board has done everything they can.”
“We had to get a consultant to come in and look at the water system,” explained Howarth. “It took a considerable length of time to get the report and make the specifications.
“We anticipated it would have been done [this] summer but we couldn’t get any local contractors to bid on the job,” he noted, adding some of the materials were back-ordered three weeks.
Contractors finally were on site in the last couple of weeks to do the initial work—with the work expected to be finished by the end of September.
“We’re doing the best we can. All kinds of other schools are getting caught up in the legislation,” said Howarth. “Things are not improving and won’t until we get proper chlorination system.
“The current one is inadequate.
“The water has probably been like this since day one. We’ve been drinking the type of water before, but now with the Walkerton scandal . . .,” Howarth remarked.