Buchanan High School, St Ambrose High School and Townhead Community Centre, Coatbridge

Buchan-St Ambrose cover image

In response to information featured in the media and shared on social media about a previous issue of blue water at the campus and the former site that the facility was built on, and in order to be transparent and open about all action that has been taken, this page sets out all the facts.

An pdf icon Information Factsheet for parents and carers is available to download [2Mb]. This will be sent to all parents and carers in the post. It contains important facts based on expert advice.

Public health experts at NHS Lanarkshire have confirmed that there is no link between the site of Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools and cases of cancer following an investigation and assessment which the council fully cooperated with.

In addition, those experts have found no link to date with any other illnesses. The council will continue to provide any information required by NHS Lanarkshire.

The safety of pupils and staff is the council's primary concern in any circumstances. There is no credible evidence to suggest that any serious illness has been caused by environmental factors associated with the school site or copper previously being present in the drinking water supply. 

The council has again written to parents and is, of course, happy to discuss these issues with staff and trade unions at any time.

The council, Scottish Government and NHS Lanarkshire have agreed an independent review of all the circumstances to provide reassurance to people. It is expected that this review will be completed before the start of the autumn term. The council will cooperate fully with the review and provide all assistance and evidence required.

The review is actively seeking views from parents and carers. These can be provided through the review's web page.

Dr David Cromie, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, NHS Lanarkshire, says, "The NHS Lanarkshire Department of Public Health carried out an investigation and assessment in relation to several cases of cancer which had been diagnosed among members of staff at Buchanan High School.

"This investigation involved detailed interviews with those affected, as well as a review of all the available evidence.

"The investigation did not find any evidence suggesting a health risk associated with attending Buchanan High School that would have led to the development of cancer.

"The public health assessment is that there is no evidence of arsenic toxicity from the school.

"In relation to copper in the water, we would like to reassure parents, pupils and staff at the schools that copper is not carcinogenic. At very high levels it could be a gastric irritant but no cases of gastrointestinal illness were reported.

"At this point we have not found any evidence of an increased health risk associated with attending the schools.

"We are aware of some requests for testing of individuals because they attend Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools.

"Any request for testing would be based on a clinical assessment of the symptoms and signs an individual displayed with any decision to test based on these."

Blue water at the school campus

Information has been consistently provided to staff, pupils and parents/carers. The first pdf icon Q&A issued on 30 November 2018 [29kb] and an update sent on pdf icon 30 January 2019 [32kb].

A letter to explain that the replacement of pipework had been completed and that tests show water meets drinking water standards since 10 December 2018 was sent on pdf icon 27 February 2019 [230kb] and a further pdf icon Q&A was sent on 28 May 2019 [37kb].

pdf icon summary of water test results [43kb] and pdf icon other test results [1Mb] are available for download.

History of the site

The site was chosen following a consultation with staff, pupils and parent councils, who overwhelmingly were in favour of the site where the school is today, over other options as it was deemed suitable in terms of size, council ownership and catchment area.

The site was used a landfill from 1945 - 1972 and domestic refuse and waste materials from the former Gartsherrie Steelworks were deposited on the site. The site itself has never been a steelworks.

Given this history, the planning service of the council made two significant recommendations about conditions which would have to be complied with if planning permission was to be granted.

The first was that before any works started a consolidated site investigation be approved by the planning authority. This was to include a site specific risk assessment and remediation plan.

The second was that any remediation works be carried out to the satisfaction of the planning authority.

Documents relating to these risk assessment and remediation plan and the subsequent remediation and validation report, which confirms that the remediation works were carried out to the satisfaction of the planning authority are available below:

These and other documents are also easily accessible on the council's online planning portal.

A number of organisations were consulted and the information supplied as part of the planning process can be found below:

The site that the campus was built on is suitable for use, meets the specific planning conditions and building standards regulations in place and is safe.

Two presentations given at a public meeting on Thursday 6 June can be viewed here: pdf icon North Lanarkshire Council presentation [736kb] and pdf icon NHS Public Health presentation [393kb].

Please email lls.cce@northlan.gov.uk or telephone 01236 812606 if you have further questions.

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