City schools start testing for lead in water system

SAN DIEGO – Testing for lead in water systems at San Diego Unified School District campuses began Monday, according to district officials.

The testing program comes a couple of months after elevated levels of lead, copper and bacteria were discovered at three campuses in the San Ysidro School District.

Testing previously took place at Emerson-Bandini Elementary School in Southcrest after a nurse saw a therapy dog reluctant to drink the water — which turned out to contain a variety of contaminants, including lead, according to multiple news reports.

The testing at SDUSD campuses is being done early in the morning, before classes start, district officials said. Up to five samples will be taken at each site, from drinking fountains, cafeterias and food preparation areas.

SDUSD officials said the city will analyze the water samples and notify them of the results. If findings indicate that lead is present above allowable levels, district staff will determine the source of contamination and take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis — like turning off water, replacing fixtures or making plumbing repairs, according to SDUSD Chief Operations Officer Drew Rowlands.

He said the program will start in the southeastern portion of the district — home to some of the oldest campuses — and work north and west.

According to the city of San Diego, charter schools on public property will be tested, but those on private property will not under the program.

Schools on private property, and other districts with campuses within city limits, are invited to contact the city’s Public Utilities Department to request testing. Many such schools have already done so, and those that haven’t can get information online at sandiego.gov/water/quality/schoolleadtest, a city spokeswoman said.

The testing at San Diego Unified schools is expected to wrap up by the time the traditional academic year ends in June.

According to the district, the State Water Resources Control Board in December required local water providers to test for lead at K-12 schools.

Information on the  program is available online at http://www.sandiegounified.org/drinking-water-sampling-1.