environment · families against chemical toxins · lead in water · toxic chemicals

FACTS And MYTHS: Misinformation On Lead Testing In San Diego Schools

Where do you live?  Do your children attend a public school in a state that requires testing for lead in drinking water?  If the school is testing, how are the results reported?  What does the school do with the results?

FACT has demonstrated that lead in drinking water is a nationwide problem effecting communities in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Texas.  Understanding the problem and being armed with the right questions to ask will get us closer to finding an answer.  Our new blog series entitled “FACTS and MYTHS” will show through examples how parents are being told that water is “safe” in schools without providing the full story.

Recently two school districts—Vista Unified and La Mesa Spring Valley– in San Diego, CA tested their drinking water sources and reported that the “water at these seven schools [La Mesa Spring Valley] is safe to drink and well within the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Brian Marshall, the superintendent of the La Mesa-Spring Valley school district.  NBC 7 San Diego further reported that, “The results show the drinking water is safe to drink in the schools tested at Vista Unified.

The first question any parent should ask after reading this is “what is safe?”  We know that health scientists, the EPA and the American Academy of Pediatrics have repeatedly stated that there is “no safe level of lead exposure” and that action should be taken for any drinking water source that test over 1ppb of lead.

FACT: After reviewing each of the test results from the La Mesa Spring Valley District schools the following 4 schools had lead in drinking water sources:

1)     Lemon Avenue: Tested 4 sources and a 1 source had 10ppb of lead

2)     La Mesa Arts Academy: Tested 3 sources and 1 source had 5ppb of lead and 1 source had 10 ppb of lead

3)     Maryland Avenue: Tested 3 sources and 1 source had 13ppb of lead

4)     Parkway Middle: Tested 3 sources and 1 source had 5ppb

FACT: After reviewing the test results of Vista Unified School District the following 3 schools had lead in drinking water sources:

1)     Monte Vista Elementary:  Tested 3 sources and 1 source had 5.9ppb of lead and 1 source had 1.5ppb of lead

2)     Vista Magnet: Tested 5 sources and 1 source had 4.8ppb of lead

3)     Casita Center: Tested 4 sources and 1 source had 1.3 ppb of lead

FACT:  Testing was only done on 3 to 5 drinking water sources that were well-used in the school.  This is known as sample testing and does not accurately account for potential lead sources in the school.  Further if lead is detected in sample testing then more robust testing should follow.

MYTH: La Mesa-Spring Valley School District’s website states “The California State Water Resources Control Board considers drinking water containing lead concentrations at or above 15 parts lead per billion parts water (ppb) to be unsafe and in need of corrective action.”

FACT: The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule’s action level for lead at 15ppb.  This rule is not a health-based standard.  There is nothing “safe” about ingesting lead in water above 1ppb.

MYTH: The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District’s website states “You may have seen the recent reports in the news about concerns over the possibility of lead contaminants in drinking fountains used in schools built prior to 1986.”  This implies that water fixtures prior to 1986 are unsafe and that after 1986 they are safe.

FACT:  In 1986 the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA) was amended to decrease lead in water pipes and fixtures; however, this amendment does NOT require that they be completely lead-free.  In fact the amendment defines “lead-free” as solder and flux with no more than 0.2% lead and pipes with no more than 8% lead.



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