Review of water samples at Scottish 'blue water' school finds no illness link

The report has revealed no direct link between water samples and illness at the St Ambrose and Buchanan High School campus in Coatbridge
The report has revealed no direct link between water samples and illness at the St Ambrose and Buchanan High School campus in Coatbridge
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An independent review into a Scottish school campus at the centre of health and safety concerns has concluded the schools are safe and there is no link between the campus and illness.


Water and soil testing was carried out at the St Ambrose and Buchanan High School campus in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, as part of a Scottish Government-ordered independent review.

Buchanan High School teachers protest over health fears at the campus

Buchanan High School teachers protest over health fears at the campus

Parents have spoken of blue water coming from taps at the schools, built on a former landfill site, and have expressed fears of a link between possible exposure to chemicals and illness among staff and pupils.

READ MORE: Environmental tests to be carried out at St Ambrose High in Coatbridge

The report found water samples all pass drinking water quality standards, but recommends further samples are tested in coming months to address some "minor quality issues".

It also found the methane membrane under the school building was installed correctly and no landfill related gases have been detected, either during installation or currently.

Investigators found elevated levels of a chemical subject to an international industrial ban more than three decades ago after health concerns.

The polychlorinated biphenyls were found in one sample pit in the periphery of the campus site.

The review, co-led by public health consultant Dr Margaret Hannah, recommended North Lanarkshire Council completes a "full and independently verified removal of the chemical" as soon as possible.

A total of 65 soil samples were taken from the site and contaminant levels from the rest of these were "not of concern".

READ MORE: Row over Scottish ministers’ education gap claims


The review said it would support the reopening of the schools at the start of the new term on Monday.

Dr Hannah said: "Our principal finding is that the schools are safe, the site is safe and there is no link between the school and the reported health issues.

"However, we have made recommendations for some work to be carried out in order to provide further public reassurance."

Robert Steenson, executive director for enterprise and communities at North Lanarkshire Council, said: "We are pleased that the independent review agrees with the council's position throughout, which is that the schools are safe and that there is no link between the schools and any serious illness.

"We look forward to welcoming pupils back for the start of the term next week to what are outstanding, high-performing schools with enthusiastic and dedicated staff."

The review also recommended the regular testing of drinking water on the campus and publication of the results, and the setting up of a group of site users to allow any concerns to be raised.

The council said it would implement the recommendations "swiftly", with work to remove the chemical found in a sample on the edge of the site to be carried out by Monday.

The local authority accepted the issue of blue water "although harmless in terms of health" could have been dealt with earlier. All pipework has since been replaced.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who ordered the review on June 12, said the findings would reassure parents, pupils and staff.

He said: "The review finds, however, that North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire did not handle this issue at all well.

"They did not engage with parents sufficiently early or in an inclusive manner.

"The recommendations will ensure statutory bodies engage far more proactively with parents, staff and pupils to rebuild the trust and learn lessons from this for the future."

Gabe Docherty, director of public health at NHS Lanarkshire, said: "We remain committed to working with all partners to provide the support and reassurance required around public health to enable the school to move forward positively and confidently."