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Schools told: don't drink the water! Copper contamination blamed for discolouration.

Graham Miller Pupils and teachers have been told not to drink the tap water at the Buchanan and St Ambrose high schools campus in Coatbridge.

The warning comes after education chiefs at North Lanarkshire Council ordered tests into reports that the water from the taps was running blue.

The council first addressed the issue three years ago but recent tests showed that it had returned.

Staff and children at Buchanan High, which was built in 2012, have said water coming from the mains has a notable blue tinge.

Experts say this can be caused by high levels of copper in corroded pipework.

Abnormally high levels of copper have also been found in some tests at St Ambrose High, which is on the same campus.

Staff and pupils at both schools have been warned not to drink from the taps and now the replacement of hundreds of metres of pipework is being considered.

Buchanan High is a school for pupils with additional support needs. It has 121 pupils aged 12 to 18, and 21 teaching staff.

It was built on a former landfill site used by Gartsherrie Ironworks for a variety of waste materials including chemicals and hazardous substances such as arsenic, nickel, and lead.

It is understood the most recent issue regarding water quality was formally raised in September.

Following those complaints, the council commissioned a range of tests, which were carried out by independent experts in October.

It was confirmed the blue water was due to copper as a result of "potential" corrosion in pipework.

Advice from the Drinking Water Inspectorate states that blue colour in water is rare, but when it happens it is due to corrosion of copper plumbing and indicates high levels of copper in the water. The inspectorate said most recorded cases happen in large public buildings or new housing estates.

Consumption of high levels of copper can cause poisoning and stomach upsets.

One water industry expert said the presence of blue water was a "rare occurrence" and it should not be happening. The school complex was completed in 2012 on the former landfill site, which was used from 1945 to 1972.

The initial planning attracted opposition from the outset, with 509 letters of objection lodged, including 32 from local residents.

But consultations with a number of environmental organisations, including SEPA, raised no objections to the schools being built on the site.

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said the "occasional instances" of blue water from taps at the school is due to "potential corrosion in the pipework creating a copper solution".

He said: "This has little impact on the quality of the water, although there is discolouration, which can understandably appear alarming.

"Since this has been reported we have been proactive in identifying the problem.

"We have replaced filters and are flushing the system twice a day which will help lower the concentration of copper in the taps concerned.

"We are carrying out daily tests to see what impact that is having and we are actively investigating a longer-term solution which could include replacing up to 300 metres of pipework."

He added: "However, the taps affected are for handwashing only and pupils and staff have been advised of this. There are separate water fountains for drinking, which have a filter system in place. "In addition, to reassure staff and pupils, we have also made bottled water available."

We are actively investigating a longer-term solution which could include replacing up to 300m of pipework
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Publication:Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser (Lanarkshire, Scotland)
Date:Dec 5, 2018
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