The San Diego Unified School District began testing its schools' water this month after lab reports confirmed "higher than allowable" lead levels were found at one campus.
Test results released Thursday show lead has been found in the water of schools tested last week but not more than the action level set by EPA of 15 parts per billion (ppb). In 2009, California’s health department, OEHHA, set the public health goal for lead in drinking water at 0.2 parts per billion.
The district declined an on-camera interview and a recorded telephone interview Friday.
Samples at Mann Middle School, taken from the area near the cafeteria and the custodian's office on April 6, measured 6.98 ug/L and 9.31 ug/L respectively.
At Encanto Elementary School, a sample taken from the upper level of Bldg 200 on April 4 measured 9.19 ug/L, one sample from an outside fountain in Bldg 400 measured 5.15 ug/L and another sample from the lower level of Bldg 200 measured 5.73 ug/L.
At Perry Elementary School, one sample taken on April 4 from a fountain near the girls' restroom in Building 4 measured 5.14 ug/L.
At Fulton K-8, a sample taken April 6 near the kindergarten rooms measured 5.41 ug/L
Other test results released April 13 measuring <5 ug/L were for samples taken from the following schools:
- Baker Elementarv School
- Boone Elementary School
- Horton Elementary School
- Bell Middle School
- Chavez Elementary School
- Johnson Elementary School
- Rolando Park Elementary School
- Balboa Elementary School
- Bethune K-8
- Freese Elementary School
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.
The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) is concerned about the test results and wants the district to take action.
Public Health Advocate Jason Pfeifle said it’s wrong for schools to allow children to drink from fountains measuring even 5 parts per billion.
"There is no safe level of lead in drinking water for kids," said Jason Pfeifle CALPIRG Public Health Advocate. "These schools must protect children's health and shut off access to these water outlets immediately."
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.
Pfeifle said the potential for lead poisoning for children drinking water at schools where samples are greater than the recommended levels from the American Academy of Pediatrics depends on the rate of exposure. That recommendation for water is less than 1 ppb.
He said CALPIRG suggests the district install filters on all water sources or shut off access to water measuring anything over 1 ppb.
A San Diego Unified spokesman emailed the following statement to NBC7 Investigates in response to CALPIRG's concerns.
"We appreciate the strong position CALPIRG has taken on this issue, and we would be happy to discuss any concerns they may have about our results directly with them," a statement from San Diego Unified spokesman Andrew Sharp said in part. "Our schools have also started flushing all water fountains each morning to further protect children from any minerals that may have accumulated over night."
Read Sharp's full response here.
The second largest school district in the state of California is working with the City of San Diego to systematically test five schools a day, Tuesday through Saturday.
The district said samples will be collected from water in the cafeteria, food prep areas and also drinking fountains.
The water at all schools within the district, including charter schools located on SDUSD property, will be tested for lead by the end of the traditional school year in June.
President of the San Diego Unified School Board Richard Barrera said the testing can only happen when the water is in regular use, when the schools are in session.
Samples will be collected Tuesday through Saturday since there are rules that water can't be sitting too long before testing, according to the district.
All schools in district and those on district property - approximately 200 - will be tested.
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.
NBC 7 has been covering the concerns regarding drinking water at area schools since lab results revealed high levels of lead, copper and bacteria in the drinking water at La Mirada Elementary School in San Ysidro.
Barrera explained that the state had planned to test all schools between now and 2019 but that the district asked for the process to be accelerated after lead was found in a water sample from Emerson-Bandini Elementary School.
Barrera said the district will be transparent regarding test results and will publish them online here.
Learn more about the testing on the district's web page here.