Scottish Government to undertake independent review Coatbridge schools over water supply contamination health fears

The Scottish Government has announced that an independent review will be conducted in relation to reported health and safety concerns at two Coatbridge schools after water supply contamination fears.

The review, jointly agreed between the Scottish Government, North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire, is looking at specific health and safety concerns raised as well as the history, construction and maintenance of the site.

It comes after four teachers at Buchanan High were diagnosed with the same form of bladder cancer. Concerns have been voiced over the possible contamination of the Coatbridge site, upon which the shared campus of Buchanan High School, St Ambrose High School and Townhead Road community centre was built, since it was reported that blue water was emerging from the pipes.

The campus opened in 2012 on land which had previously been used by Gartsherrie Ironworks for the dumping of industrial waste between 1945 and 1972.

The review will address specific health concerns that have been raised by the school and local community such as possible exposure to unspecified chemicals resulting from previous land use, attending the school and acquiring cancer and the presence of copper in the water supply.

The review will also assess the risk assessment made and validation of works undertaken across the site to assess whether all activity was carried out in accordance with appropriate Regulations and best practice to mitigate against any risk to public health.

The review will be carried out by a party independent of the original works. The party will review reports and scientific or other information relevant to decisions within scope of the review made by organisations such as Drinking Water Regulator for Scotland, Health & Safety Executive, North Lanarkshire Council’s Director of Enterprise and Communities (Planning/Building and Environmental Health), NHS Lanarkshire, SEPA and Scottish Water

The purpose of the review is to provide further reassurance to the local community and will determine whether additional evidence or action is required in order to provide such further reassurance.

Paul Cackette and Dr Margaret Hannah, who are leading the investigation, met with the headteachers of Buchanan High and St Ambrose High schools, public health experts from NHS Lanarkshire and representatives of North Lanarkshire Council.

Depute First Minister John Swinney said: "There have been a number of significant concerns raised by families, teachers and elected representatives about the safety of the Buchanan and St Ambrose High School.

“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.

“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."

North Lanarkshire Council chief executive Des Murray said: ‘We welcome the support of the Government in providing further reassurance to the community.

‘Specialist doctors from NHS Lanarkshire have confirmed no incidence of cancer is linked to the schools. They also confirmed no other serious illness is connected to the schools or the site on which they are built. All the facts demonstrate that the schools and site on which they are built are safe.’

REHIS is a registered charity in Scotland, SC009406

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