San Diego

Board President and Water Expert Expect Issues During Lead Water Testing

The San Diego Unified School District began testing its schools' water Tuesday after lab reports confirmed "higher than allowable" lead levels were found at one campus

Both the board president for the San Diego Unified School District and an independent water quality treatment expert say they expect leaders will find water quality problems at a number of San Diego schools.

The San Diego Unified School District began testing its schools' water Tuesday after lab reports confirmed "higher than allowable" lead levels were found at one campus.

NBC 7 Investigates has been covering water quality in schools since San Ysidro district officials discovered unsafe levels of lead, bacteria and copper in one of its elementary schools in early February.

"Stay informed. As the results come from the city, we will put those results on our website and communicate results with parents," Board President Richard Barrera said. "We expect we're going to find issues at a number of schools and then we will immediately provide bottled water, step in and take action to fix the problems, but parents should be paying attention."

An independent water quality expert, Bob Bowcock, has been reviewing parts of the massive amounts of documentation and data NBC 7 Investigates has obtained during the course of our series "Safe to Drink?" including data on the levels of pH and inhibitors in city water at different sampling locations throughout the city.

Bowcock also said it is likely problems will be discovered with lead or other contaminants as the city and school district aims to test nearly 200 schools by the end of the school year.

"They’re going to find high lead levels and just because they don’t find lead in particular locations, it doesn’t mean it isn't there, it just means it wasn't when they actually took the sample," Bowcock said.

Bowcock said lead is not a contaminant that would be in water unless their are problems with both the plumbing and the water.

"The one thing that is always misunderstood is that when people think of a water sample for lead, they think it's like a contaminant that's actually found in the drinking water," Bowcock said. "It's very important to understand that lead enters the drinking water as a result of the corrosive nature of water."

City of San Diego Senior Engineer Doug Campbell has said city water is not corrosive. The city treats it and tests the water for lead as it leaves the treatment plant, and for its level of corrosivity at hundreds of different locations throughout the city.

Campbell provided NBC 7 Investigates data for water at hundreds of sampling locations near schools. When San Ysidro School District officials discovered lead at La Mirada elementary, the city also went back to sampling sites closest to schools, retested and discovered no lead.

Unlike in Flint, Michigan, where many homes were found to have astronomical levels of lead coming from taps, San Diego has replaced all of the lead pipes in its water distribution system, according to Campbell.

Another water expert said yesterday from the limited information he's seen in San Diego, the city does a good job managing the level at which its water is corrosive.

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