Contaminated water at San Ysidro schools costing thousands

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SAN DIEGO — San Ysidro School District School officials are one step closer to cleaning up their contaminated water problem.

Elevated levels of lead, copper and bacteria discovered last October at three older campuses appear to have been cleared up.

“It was an initial shock when they found out there were some contaminants in the water,” Superintendent Julio Fonseca said.

La Mirada Elementary, Smythe Elementary and San Ysidro Middle schools had their drinking water shut off after lead levels were found at La Mirada. Each of the schools was built back in the 1970s.

“Sadly enough, because the schools are so old, they’ve never been updated. We found high levels of copper bacteria and lead.”

The poisoned water has cost the district thousands of dollars.

“The bottled water already costs us $1,000 a day just to provide the fresh water for our kids. The fixtures cost us about $13,000, that’s just the fixtures themselves,” Fonseca said.

The district is still waiting for more test results before turning the drinking water back on, but secondary testing has shown no signs of lead in the water at La Mirada.

Leaders are now looking to use their struggles as an example throughout the state.

The school board on Thursday received approval to tackle the plumbing problem head-on. State lawmakers are now getting involved, too.
A bill has been proposed that would require all public schools to test for dangerous contaminants.

“Lead exposure has real consequences, and it’s unacceptable that children and teachers could be poisoned by drinking from the water fountains at school,” Fonseca said.

The superintendent says they will work with water experts on preventative measures and will also be holding a parent forum in May.