San Diego

Positive Test for Lead in Water at Ira Harbison Elementary School

Officials confirm there were unusually high levels of lead in one water source at Ira Harbison Elementary School in the National School District

Officials confirm there are unusually high levels of lead in one water source at Ira Harbison Elementary School in the National School District.

A sample was collected April 11 from a fountain at the southern exterior of the building, according to the results released by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The sample was collected and tested by the Sweetwater Authority.

As school districts test for lead in their drinking water, they are required by the state to fix problems if they discover levels greater than 15 parts per billion (ppb).

One sample from Ira Harbison showed lead levels at 20 ppb.

Three other samples reported levels at 10 ppb, 7 ppb and 6 ppb. These results do not meet the state guidelines requiring district action.

In a letter to parents, Superintendent Leighangela Brady explained the action taken.

"That drinking fountain has been taken out of service and will remain so until the fixture and its exposed connections can be replaced. Water samples will then be taken, retested and certified to be safe by the water district or an independent laboratory before being put back in to service," Brady said.

A fountain on the campus of El Toyon Elementary School was found to have levels of lead measuring 6 ppb. There are more than 500 students in preschool through sixth grade at the campus that is part of the National School District.

On the campus of Kimball Elementary School, a water fountain tested positive for lead with a level of 8 ppb. The school was built in 1941 and serves approximately 400 students.

Other school districts in the county got results from recent tests.

At Cesar Chavez Middle in Oceanside, a water fountain sample collected on April 6 was reported to show lead levels at 12 ppb.

The health center sink at Clair Burgener Academy sampled April 5 was reported to have lead levels at 8 ppb. 

Oceanside Unified School District listed the test results for parents on their website with the following statement:

“Clair Burgener and Chavez Middle School each had one fixture with detectable levels of lead below the federal actionable limit. Although no action is required, these fixtures have been taken out of service indefinitely and are being retested. The new results will be posted on the district website when they become available.”

The drinking fountain used by Kindergartners at Juniper Elementary in Escondido was tested in early May. The levels of lead were found to be at 5.8 ppb.

The testing of lead in the water of local schools has intensified this spring. 

Three schools within the San Diego Unified School District have tested positive for levels of lead above state guidelines.

The schools are Birney Elementary School in University Heights, Emerson Campus of the Emerson/Bandini Elementary School and the Emerson Campus of the San Diego Cooperative Charter School.

In the most recent test results released by San Diego Unified School District, unusually high levels of lead were found in eight schools. In each case, the levels measured were below state guidelines requiring the district to take action.

The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics maintain there is no safe level of lead in drinking water provided to children.

In 2009, California’s health department, OEHHA, set the public health goal for lead in drinking water at 0.2 parts per billion.

Lead poisoning in children can cause symptoms ranging from headaches and hearing or speech problems to learning and behavioral problems or damage to the brain and nervous system.

San Diego Unified School District is publishing test results for each school here.

NBC 7 is mapping the schools and the results. Parents can view how the testing is going and click on each location for updates and links to test results.

NBC 7 is gathering our coverage of concerns regarding drinking water in our special section "Safe to Drink?' here.

The potential for lead contamination in the water supply is greater in buildings built before 1986, according to health, water and city experts.

There are 447 schools across San Diego County built before 1986.

See our map of schools where the risk is greater here.

Ira Harbison Elementary is located on E 8th Street in National City and includes grades Transitional Kindergarten to sixth grade with 575 students.

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