Board approves plan to filter water at city schools

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego Unified schools will have some of the cleanest and safest drinking water in the state following a unanimous vote by the district school board Tuesday night.

The district will add approximately 2,000 new filtration systems at local schools, replacing approximately 10,000 older drinking fountains.

A pilot project at Clay Elementary in the College Area was established in 2017 after high levels of lead were discovered in drinking water. The school had 48 water filter stations installed in January.

“Our school was built in the 1950’s, so, we had some pipes to replace,” said Clay Elementary Principal Lindsay Michaliszyn.

Now, the new hydration stations will be rolled out at schools across the district, beginning with elementary schools.

“Lead, especially to a younger kid that’s still developing a nervous system, has an effect on that nervous system,” said Dr. Howard Taras, a medical consultant to San Diego Unified School District. “Lower IQ, attention deficit — it can cause some changes in behavior and learning ability.”

Nationally, 15 parts per billion of lead are allowed in drinking water. In 2017, California passed a law establishing stricter standards of five parts per billion. The new filter systems are designed to filter lead in water to just one part per billion.

“Although the water is excellent, the way it’s picking up lead in the last few inches of travel could be detrimental,” Dr. Taras said.

The new filter stations are expected to be in place at all district schools by 2024.

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