Testing schools for lead in water has become very costly for the City of San Diego. More than $500,000 has been spent on the effort so far.
City council members were updated Thursday from the Public Utilities Department on the process to test all San Diego Unified schools for lead levels in drinking water.
In January 2017, new State Water Resource Control Board regulations went into effect requiring water agencies to monitor school water for high levels of lead, when the school district requests testing.
The San Diego Unified School District asked to have 57 schools tested on March 21, according to data with the State Water Resources Control Board.
The state data shows the school district filed requests with the City of San Diego to participate in the state program, after test results came in showing high levels of lead and vinyl chloride at a school in Southeast San Diego.
The school was originally tested because parents and kids complained about stomach problems and smelly water. "Star," a service dog, refused to drink the water.
District officials said they had already planned to test school water for lead when contaminated water was discovered at Emerson Bandini, but the discovery accelerated the testing schedule and extended it to all 300 schools. The City and SDUSD hope to complete the testing by mid-June.
The City of San Diego said it has spent about $200,000 on start-up costs to get the testing going.
The city's water department estimates a cost of $2,200 per school to sample the water.
Of the 164 SDUSD schools tested so far, three schools have tested positive for levels of lead above state guidelines.
The low number of positive results had some city councilmembers asking whether the cost is reasonable.
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.
"We know the national stories about this and so we always have to be vigilant to protect those communities whether it's water or anything else," said City Councilman David Alvarez.
Councilman Chris Ward asked if there's any concern or any plan to test other public buildings like police stations or even City Hall. So far, there is not but he asked the water department to look into doing that.