Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw meets contractor to discuss water crisis at city schools
EXETER’S MP Ben Bradshaw has met with top officials of the contractor responsible for the water crisis at city schools.
Carillion has spent around £1m trying to solve the problems with the water supply at Exeter’s secondary schools.
The company has been running services at Exeter’s secondary schools since they were built under a private finance initiative (PFI) agreement six years ago.
Since its construction, St Peter’s School has been relying on bottled water for drinking ever since it opened in 2006, when blue water was first detected coming out of a drinking fountain.
Tuesday 9th & Wednesday 10th. Carol (with over 16yrs experience) has 10% off - facials. Pedicures. Manicures. Body wraps. Spray tans. Waxing. Tinting. Perming
Terms: For 2 days only. With therapist Carol. Please quote "2 day special offer".
Contact: 01271 440617
Valid until: Thursday, December 12 2013
Although Carillion did not offer a definitive reason for the blue water, it is understood that the problem was associated with the copper piping that was installed when the building was constructed and the initial blue sample was found to contain too much copper, iron and manganese.
It has finally given the all-clear but bottled water is still being used there.
At West Exe Technology College, high levels of metals and Legionella bacteria was discovered in the water supply which has now been put right.
There have also been issues affecting tap water at St James School, Isca College of Media Arts, St Luke’s Science and Sports College and Wynstream Primary School.
Papers released by Devon County Council revealed the extent of the problem including information that one member of staff at Carillion falsified a reading taken from the supply at St Peter’s, as well as the battles the local authority has had with Carillion to try and resolve the problems.
Pipe replacement and disinfecting over the summer holidays has rectified problems at West Exe but there are still problems at St Peter’s.
Since meeting with Rob Holt, Carillion managing director, Tim Smith, local partnership director for the Carillion PFI Schools and Anne Toms, government affairs manager for the school, Mr Bradshaw received a letter from Mr Holt further clarifying the situation.
In it Mr Holt affirmed that when the metals test was falsified at St Peter’s, bottled water was already being used so there was “never an issue of risk”.
He said the incident was investigated and dealt with by the company’s human resources department.
In addition to extensive work at West Exe to rectify the issue of elevated metals he confirmed that drinking fountains had been replaced and a programme of assurance testing using South West Water’s testing laboratories had been arranged. He added that at locations where a risk of metals still exists, fittings will be changed again.
Mr Holt said that the firm wasn’t contractually obliged to have undertaken the “majority” of the work but did so recognising its moral obligation.
He said that the safety of pupils and teachers has been the priority, adding: “I am confident that all currently available drinking water in the schools is 100 per cent safe.
“We have a good relationship with the schools and have appreciated the fact that they have been extraordinarily patient during this process.”
He pledged his “personal commitment to the successful resolution” of the issue which is considered to be the company’s “highest priority”.
Mr Bradshaw, added: “Carillion were clearly concerned about the damage to their reputation from the on-going water problems at some of the schools.
“They gave me a clear and unequivocal assurance that any outstanding problems either had been or shortly will be resolved. Devon County Council needs to hold them to that assurance.”