Fears that teacher and pupils’ health has suffered because of contaminated water at two North Lanarkshire schools, which are built on a former landfill site, will be investigated, the Scottish government has announced.
Education secretary John Swinney has said that the Scottish government will initiate an “immediate, independent and impartial review” of health and safety concerns at Buchanan and St Ambrose high schools in a bid to “provide further reassurance to the local community”.
Mr Swinney – who announced the review late this afternoon – added it would be carried out by the Scottish government’s chief planning reporter, Paul Cackette, and Dr Margaret Hannah, a former director of public health, and would be completed before the start of the new school year in August.
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He said: “I recognise that North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire have undertaken extensive work in an effort to address the concerns expressed by the local community.
'Blue water' health fears
“However, in light of continuing concerns being raised, ministers have agreed with North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire to immediately commission an impartial, independent review. This will assess existing evidence and determine if more needs to be done to further mitigate any concerns of pupils, their parents and staff and provide further reassurance to the local community.”
In March 2018, bottled water was used at the high schools after blue water was discovered coming from pipes, with tests later revealing higher than recommended levels of copper.
Officials said this was due to corrosion, but insisted there was no health risk. Copper piping at the campus has since been replaced with plastic pipes and the council has said that the schools and the site are safe.
However, fears about safety were voiced recently after it emerged that four members of staff at special school Buchanan High had received treatment for cancer, and earlier this week the NASUWT Scotland teaching union announced that the 12 teachers it represents at the school would be staging seven days of strike action later this month. The NASUWT welcomed the Scottish government announcement but it did not alter its position regarding the strike action.
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, meanwhile said its employment relations committee had written to the Scottish government calling for the review and it was “encouraging” that Mr Swinney had responded so quickly.