Glasgow & West Scotland

Teachers vote to strike over Coatbridge schools 'blue water' fears

Buchanan High
Image caption NASUWT members at Buchanan High have voted to strike

Teachers at a North Lanarkshire school have voted for strike action over health concerns at an education campus.

Concerns had been raised about "blue water" coming from pipes and possible chemical contamination at the Townhead Road complex, built on a former landfill in Coatbridge.

The NASUWT union which represents 12 staff at Buchanan High School said they would be withdrawn from 20 to 28 June.

North Lanarkshire Council insisted there was no evidence of health risks.

The campus, which includes Buchanan High, St Ambrose High and Townhead Road community centre, opened in 2012 on land which had been used for industrial waste including lead and arsenic, between 1945 and 1972.

Copper levels

At the time of planning, concerns were lodged over possible contamination.

In March 2018, bottled water was used at the high schools after blue water was discovered coming from pipes.

Test later revealed higher than recommended copper levels.

Image caption The campus is home to two secondary schools

Officials said this was due to corrosion but insisted there was no health risk. About 1,800m of copper piping has since been replaced with plastic piping.

Concern has grown in recent weeks after it emerged that four former or current members of staff at Buchanan High had received treatment for cancer.

The NASUWT union has now announced seven days of strike action at Buchanan High which is an additional support needs school catering for about 100 pupils.

A spokeswoman said: "Whilst the NASUWT is in dispute over the situation at the school we have taken the unprecedented step of removing our members from the school site because of the serious health and safety concerns.

Image caption A meeting was held at Townhead Community Centre last week

"The failure of the employer to act to address these concerns is unacceptable and our legal advisers are also taking appropriate action.

"No stone should be left unturned when the health of staff and pupils is at risk.

"The NASUWT should not be in a position where we have to take such action, but if an employer fails to act appropriately we will."

'The schools and the site on which they are built is safe'

A public meeting at the campus on Thursday grew heated as parents voiced concerns.

Hundreds gathered at Townhead Community Centre to question council and NHS officials on whether the blue water in the pipes was a health risk and if there was any risk from contaminants at the former landfill site.

A public health expert told the meeting the particular cancers reported had a long "latency period" between exposure to environmental triggers and onset of disease, suggesting the campus could not be a causal factor.

A statement issued by North Lanarkshire Council on Monday said: "Specialist doctors from the public health department of NHS Lanarkshire have confirmed that no incidence of cancer is linked to the schools. They have also confirmed that no other serious illness is connected to the schools or the site on which they are built.

"The council will liaise directly with trade unions on matters of concern to staff. All the facts demonstrate that the schools and the site on which they are built is safe."

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