School Contamination Update: Sites Declared Safe

A few months ago, we reported on contaminated fears at a school campus in North Lanarkshire. An independent review has now concluded that the schools are safe and that there was no link between soil samples and drinking water standards.

It also said water samples passed drinking water standards and soil samples were “not of concern”.

The Buchanan and St Ambrose high schools in Coatbridge, along with Townhead Community Centre, were opened in 2012 on a site that had been used as landfill for industrial waste, including lead and arsenic, between 1945 and 1972.

Steps were taken to make the grounds safe before the campus opened in 2012, including bringing in fresh top soil.

But in March 2018, staff and students were given bottled water amid concerns about blue-tinted water coming from the taps.

Tests revealed higher than recommended levels of copper. It was blamed on corrosion and the pipes have since been replaced.

As part of the review, water, soil and air samples from the former landfill site were assessed, along with the integrity of the methane membrane, which was installed as a safety measure during construction of the campus.

The review team found that one soil sample on the periphery of the site had elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are subject to an international industrial ban. They concluded, though, that the risk from contaminants was very low.

The review was critical of North Lanarkshire Council for its “slow and defensive response” to the legitimate concerns raised by parents and teachers.

They recommend that North Lanarkshire Council completes a full and independently verified removal of the chemical as soon as possible as a precaution.

Other recommendations included:

  • To address elevated levels of PCBs from a peripheral part of the site
  • Take more water samples in the coming months to address minor quality issues
  • Set up a site recovery group to enable information to be shared and concerns to be raised
  • Periodic testing results for the methane membrane to be made public as soon as possible


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