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Teachers to strike at ‘blue water’ school

Twelve NASUWT members will take seven days of strike action at Buchanan High School in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire.

Teachers will go on strike over health fears at a campus in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire (David Jones/PA)
Teachers will go on strike over health fears at a campus in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire (David Jones/PA)

Teachers have voted for strike action at a school built on a landfill site after four members of staff were diagnosed with cancer.

Health concerns have been raised about Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, after incidents of blue water coming from taps.

More than 9,000 people have signed a petition on change.org calling on North Lanarkshire Council to test every pupil and member of staff past and present for toxins or contamination and demanding an independent investigation of the campus site to “check the site is safe from toxic waste”.

The council has said the schools and the site are safe.

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 NASUWT

The NASUWT union, which represents 12 teachers at Buchanan High School, said they would take seven days of strike action later this month.

A union 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.

“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.”

Its members will strike on June 20-21 and 24-28.

Tests at the campus found higher levels of copper in the water in some areas of the school, which can lead to discolouration.

More than 1,800 metres of copper piping has been replaced with plastic pipes across the site, opened in 2012, which also includes Townhead Community Centre.

North Lanarkshire Council has set up a dedicated website with information about the situation at the campus.

It says: “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 co-operated 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 site was used as landfill from 1945 to 1972 and domestic refuse and waste materials from the former Gartsherrie Steelworks were deposited there.

A North Lanarkshire Council spokeswoman 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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