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Eastern Municipal WD Completes Lead Testing at 111 Public Schools; None Exceed State Threshold
Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) has completed lead testing at all of the 111 public schools within its jurisdiction in response to Assembly Bill 746. AB 746 was signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017, requiring all public educational facilities to conduct lead testing by July 1 of this year. None of the schools tested by EMWD exceeded 15 parts per billion in lead content, the metric identified under the California Safe Drinking Water Act as potentially unhealthful.
The legislation was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-80th District-San Diego) requiring all public pre-K-12 schools test their water for lead contamination. The legislation created Section 116277 of the California Health and Safety Code (HSC 116277) and requires that “A community water system that serves a schoolsite of a local educational agency with a building constructed before January 1, 2010, on that schoolsite shall test for lead in the potable water system of the schoolsite on or before July 1, 2019.” HSC 116277 defines a local educational agency as a “school district, county office of education, or charter school located in a public facility.” Water fountains/faucets that must be tested are any used for drinking or the preparation of food.
“We are proud to have partnered with our public schools to promote public health and provide parents and students confidence in the water served at schools,” EMWD President Ronald Sullivan said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates national drinking water standards, there are no safe levels of lead. The use of lead pipes in construction was banned in in the 1980s but many schools throughout the country still have lead pipes in use.
Lead exposure remains a major public health concern. Lead exposure in children is particularly dangerous, and can cause brain damage, learning and behavioral difficulties, and impaired mental faculties. According to Assemblywoman Gonzalez, a national study released by Reuters News in 2016 showed that California was home to eight of the zip codes with highest lead contamination rates in the nation.
The aim of the legislation, according to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, is to ensure that any “potable source of drinking water” at school sites is not contaminated. If high lead levels are identified, parents and guardians, and all schoolsite staff members, must be notified immediately and water district officials are required to take steps to mitigate the hazard.
Although the legislation does not mandate that a water district test private schools’ water, EMWD has indicated that private schools can request that a test be performed before Nov. 1 of this year. EMWD conducts 40,000 water quality tests annually as a matter of policy to confirm “homes, schools and businesses receive high-quality water that meets state and federal drinking water standards.”