San Diego commits to get the lead out of schools’ drinking water

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U.S. PIRG and Environment America

SAN DIEGO — One of the largest school districts in the country has taken a major step toward getting the lead out of school drinking water. The San Diego Unified School District adopted an ambitious plan Tuesday to prevent lead contamination by replacing water fountains with 2,000 new water stations, installing filters, and setting a health-based standard of 1 part per billion (ppb), as recommended for schools by the American Academy of Pediatrics

U.S. PIRG and its sister organization Environment America have been working with state and local officials across the country to get the lead out. U.S. PIRG’s state affiliate, CALPIRG, has been working with San Diego’s school board for the past two years to develop and enhance its plans to ensure safe drinking water. 

“Our children deserve clean, safe drinking water when they go to school each day,” said Danielle Melgar, Make it Toxic Free Campaign advocate for U.S. PIRG. “Yet across the country, lead contamination of schools drinking water is pervasive. Even at low levels, lead is especially damaging to children — impairing how they learn, grow and behave.”

The policies adopted by San Diego Unified School district include: 

  • Replacing fountains: San Diego is replacing water fountains with 2,000 new water stations. Instead of just remediating taps where tests confirmed the presence of lead, San Diego understands that the risk of contamination remains at any outlet with lead-bearing parts.
  • Installing filters: The new water stations will also have filters to capture lead coming from solder or fixtures further back in the water system.
  • Moving towards a health-based standard: San Diego already limits lead in schools’ drinking water to 5 ppb but its plan is designed to reduce lead concentrations to 1 ppb, as recommended for schools by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

“These are the kind of far-reaching commitments needed to ensure that all our children will have safe water to drink at school,” said John Rumpler, Clean Water Program director for Environment America. “We’re working to continue this momentum and convince even more school districts, cities and states to do the same.”

San Diego’s commitment is the latest in a growing number of school districts that are beginning to take meaningful action to prevent lead contamination of drinking water. Environment America and U.S. PIRG plan to highlight some of these accomplishments in a report later this spring.



Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy.    

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

U.S. PIRG and the Environment America are both part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done

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