Report Shows Elevated Levels of Lead in Serra Mesa Elementary School Drinking Water

Five water outlets at a Serra Mesa elementary school contained elevated levels of lead, according to a report from the San Diego Unified School District.

Juarez Elementary tested above the district’s mandated lead action level of 5 parts per billion (ppb).

The results showed the highest water outlet reached 7.43 ppb, while the lowest, but still above the limit, was 5.07 ppb during a recent round of testing.

In July 2017, the district’s Board of Education reduced its lead action level from 15 ppb to 5 ppb. The federal limit for schools remains at 15 ppb.

The new level for San Diego is the lowest among the state’s school districts, according to Juarez Elementary Principal Skye Oluwa. It also matches the required limit in bottled drinking water by the Food and Drug Administration.

Of the five contaminated water outlets, four were drinking fountains and one was a faucet. The Serra Mesa school has 41 water outlets in total, the district told NBC 7.

Parents were notified Monday by a letter sent out by Principal Oluwa.

The district told NBC 7 that no fountain will be turned back on until it’s below 5 ppb.

While the timeline for repairs depends on each water outlet, the district said it generally takes about a month.

A sixth water outlet tested above the district’s limit, reaching 5.02 ppb; however, this fountain was previously flagged in 2018 and has remained offline.

The complete letter from the school’s principal is shown below:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

As part of San Diego Unified’s commitment to provide safe and quality schools in all neighborhoods, the district has been sampling drinking water for elevated levels of lead. In July 2017, the Board of Education adopted a drinking water remediation plan that reduced the district’s lead action level to 5 parts per billion (ppb) from 15 ppb. This new action level is the lowest among California school districts and matches the Food and Drug Administration’s standard for bottled drinking water.

Following strict protocols, drinking water samples were drawn from all remaining drinking water outlets on campus and sent to a certified lab for analysis. The district has received results indicating some sample results exceed the district’s action level of 5ppb.

The district is investigating the source(s) of lead and is immediately taking the necessary precautions to ensure that students and staff remain safe. These steps include:

1. Securing fountains, sinks and fixtures where lead is identified until additional water sample results verify that the source(s) of lead have been identified and remedied.

2. Committing to keep students, families and the broader San Diego Unified community apprised of developments.

3. Communicating additional information as it becomes available.

Those interested in viewing detailed water sampling reports, learning more about the district’s water sampling effort, or learning more about lead poisoning prevention, may visit

If you have questions, please contact the school district’s Safety Office via email at or by telephone at 858-672-7174.


Mrs. Oluwa


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