New water filtration stations will be installed at all San Diego Unified School District campuses over the next four years in response to concerns over water quality in the wake of the discovery of high lead levels at several campuses.
Water quality has been a concern for SDUSD since 2017 when NBC 7 Investigates started tracking dangerous levels of lead in schools' drinking water.
Henry Clay Elementary School in Rolando installed its hydration stations nearly three years ago as part of a pilot program. The stations are best described as traditional water fountains combined with a water bottle filling station.
SDUSD board members unanimously approved the recommendation to install the hydration stations district-wide during a meeting Tuesday night.
Tests conducted in 2017 detected amounts of lead below the federal guidelines of 15 parts per billion, but above the district’s standard of 5 parts per billion, which is also the standard for most bottled water companies. Now the district is transitioning to a 1 part per billion standard, which essentially eliminates lead entirely, district leaders announced Tuesday.
The installations will start at elementary schools, because young children are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of lead ingestion than older children. Middle schools will follow, then high schools.
“I just want to share that students are very excited about this, so hopefully that’s encouraging to all the work that everyone’s doing,” said a high school student at Tuesday’s board meeting.
According to trustees, 8,000 water fountains will be removed district-wide, and 2,000 hydration stations will take their place. While there are less water fountains available to students, a Henry Clay teacher told NBC 7 there have not been negative impacts.
“Every day my students fill their bottles at recess and again at lunchtime. It’s going great,” said Barbara Tucker, a 2nd and 3rd grade combo teacher. Students are visiting water fountains less because their filled water bottles last them the majority of the day, Tucker added.
Hydration station installation will be complete by 2024 at a cost of $12 million. The stations will cost $400,000 per year to maintain, the district said.