The State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water announced last week it is working in collaboration with the California Department of Education to begin testing drinking water in schools (K-12) for lead.
The offer is available to schools served by a municipality, water district, mutual water company, or other public water system may request assistance from their public water system to conduct water sampling for lead and to provide technical assistance if an elevated lead sample site is found.
Long-term exposure to lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in young children. In commenting on the initiative, Deputy Director of the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water Darrin Polhemus said, “While the presence of lead in California’s water infrastructure is minimal compared to other parts of the country, additional testing can help ensure we are continuing to protect our most vulnerable populations.”
National events like the lead issues in Flint, Michigan have highlighted the importance of ongoing water quality monitoring. In 2015 Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. directed the State Water Board to incorporate schools into the regular water quality testing that community water systems conduct at customer’s taps.
According to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), there are approximately 9,000 K-12 schools in California, most of which are served by more than 3,000 community water systems in the state. While these community water systems extensively and regularly test their drinking water for lead, lead could get into clean water at a school campus if there are corroded pipes or old fixtures at the school.
Under the new requirement, testing is voluntary for schools, but if the schools make a written request, the community water systems must collect the samples within three months and report the results back to the school within two business days. Sampling locations can include drinking fountains, cafeteria and food preparation areas, and reusable water bottle filling stations. The one-time program extends until Nov. 1, 2019.
The other great news for school districts regarding this initiative is that community water systems are responsible for the costs associated with collecting drinking water samples, analyzing them and reporting results through this new program. In addition, the SWRCB’s Division of Financial Assistance has funding available to assist with addressing lead found in tests, with a particular focus on schools in disadvantaged communities.
One local company, the Golden State Water Company has already announced the establishment of a program to collaborate with the schools it serves to ensure the drinking water complies with state and federal lead standards. The company serves 180 schools, many in the inland communities of Apple Valley and Barstow. For more information on the lead sampling for schools program visit waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/ leadsamplinginschools.shtml.