San Diego

Elevated Lead Levels Discovered at San Ysidro Elementary School

Water from the contaminated fountains was a noticeable cloudy, blue-green color.

Tests revealed high levels of lead, copper and bacteria in the water supply at La Mirada Elementary School, the San Ysidro School District confirmed Wednesday.

On Jan. 23, the school district received the results of water samples that showed slightly elevated levels of lead at eight fountains at La Mirada Elementary school, as well as bacteria at two sinks and a fountain, according to school officials.

Back in October, staff at the school noticed discolored water from the drinking fountains that was described as a cloudy, blue-green color.

The school immediately shut off all water and provided bottled water to students and staff. A professional environmental firm was hired to conduct water quality testing, said school officials.

One faucet had slightly elevated levels of lead, copper and bacteria, according to the test results after the problem was discovered in October. Another faucet had slightly elevated levels of copper. The school promptly replaced the two contaminated faucets and continued testing the aging infrastructure at La Mirada, said school officials.

Further test results released on Jan. 23 found elevated levels of lead at eight more fountains at the school and bacteria at two sinks as well as a fountain.

"It's really terrible that students and employees in the San Ysidro School District have been exposed to such a potentially dangerous situation. As a parent, I expect our schools to take every possible measure to ensure the safety of our students," said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the California Assemblywoman (D) for the 80th District, in a statement.

"As a lawmaker, I will be inquiring in to whether the School District pursued money from the State's Pure and Safe Drinking Water Grant for schools that the Governor and Legislature budgeted for this year, as well as what other steps were taken by the School District to prevent this potential public health hazard and to notify parents about their options to test or treat their children once the high lead levels were discovered," continued Fletcher in the statement.

Upon discovering these water quality issues, the San Ysidro School District began working to replace all faucets and fountains at La Mirada as quickly as possible with the goal of Mid-February, according to the district.

Meanwhile, the schools will continue to provide students with bottled water until all the old faucets and fountains are replaced.

The water, provided by the City of San Diego, appears to have been contaminated by aging infrastructure in the plumbing systems, faucets and fountains.

No student, teacher or staff member has reported drinking the contaminated water after the discoloration appeared, said school officials. The school has not received any complaints of illness or symptoms caused by the contaminated water.

In response to the water quality concerns, the San Ysidro School District Superintendent, Julio Fonseca, said, "Student safety is always at the forefront of everything we do -- a secure learning environment is integral to ensuring our children achieve at the highest levels," in a statement.

He says La Mirada was built back in 1973.

"Just like school districts across the country, we're dealing with aging infrastructure. The presence of lead in the plumbing systems, faucets and fountains is not entirely uncommon in older buildings," said Fonseca.

"The San Ysidro School District takes student and staff safety concerns very seriously," said Fonseca.

On Jan. 17, the State of California announced a new initiative to help schools carry out voluntary water sampling. School officials say the District has gone beyond the level of sampling and response the state program recommends.

Back in 1997, voters approved 210 million dollars worth of funding to modernize the aging schools in the district. However, the pipes were not replaced at some schools. In some cases, that money has been spent on settling lawsuits and general operations instead.

Ed. Note: A previous version of this article stated the high levels of lead were found at two schools in the San Ysidro District. We have corrected the information and regret the error.

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