Today Marks Key Deadline for Testing School Drinking Water for Lead

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

Today, July 1, 2019, is the deadline for schools to test their drinking water for lead under a 2017 law authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. Unfortunately, more than 1,600 school drinking water fountains tested positive for lead. Additionally, based on the most recent data available, some schools likely missed the deadline for getting their water tested. 

“We cannot accept exposing kids to lead in their drinking water,” said Emily Rusch, executive director of CALPIRG Education Fund. “Drinking water is one of the most basic, essential needs that schools must provide for their students.” Back in March, CALPIRG Education Fund created an interactive map of school lead testing.

This data can also be found and downloaded directly on the California State Water Control Board website.  

No amount of lead is safe for children’s health. Lead is highly toxic and children are especially vulnerable to its effects because it impairs their cognitive abilities — how they learn, grow and behave. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that drinking water should not exceed lead concentrations of 1 parts per billion (ppb). 

Unfortunately, only five fountains per school are required to be tested under current law, and schools are only required to take action to address lead when the test results come back with at least 15ppb lead. The Water Board reports that 1,376 drinking water fountains tested positive for lead below the 15ppb action level. In CALPIRG Education Fund’s comparison of 31 states, Get the Lead Out: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water for our Children at School, these shortcomings gave California a C+ grade.

CALPIRG Education Fund is calling on school districts throughout the state to proactively install filters on drinking water fountains, test every outlet for lead, and commit to replacing pipes and plumbing fixtures wherever it is needed to get tests down to less than 1 ppb lead. San Diego, Oakland, and Los Angeles are among the school districts that have gone above and beyond what current law requires to provide safe drinking water for their students. Last fall, CALPIRG Education Fund created a toolkit for parents who want to take action to address lead in their school’s drinking water. 

In San Diego, voters approved a bond measure last November to help pay for clean drinking water upgrades. The legislature is currently considering placing a statewide bond measure on the ballot that would include some funding for clean drinking water upgrades at schools, but only for fountains that test above 15ppb lead. 

“We urge every school to not only comply with the law, but also go above and beyond what the law requires to truly protect kids from lead in their drinking water,” said Rusch.