SAN DIEGO–California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) proposed regular testing for lead in the water systems at public schools and to shutter the unsafe water systems if high lead levels are discovered.
Assembly Bill 746, which Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher authored after the San Ysidro School District acknowledged last month it had discovered high lead levels in its water fountains even after it replaced the fixtures there, would force districts who haven’t taken advantage of the current voluntary testing programs to test for lead in its water supply annually. If higher lead levels are discovered at a school site, the school district would be required to shut off the water system and notify parents that elevated levels were discovered and how their children can be tested for lead poisoning.
“Lead has real consequences and it’s unacceptable that children and teachers could be poisoned by simply drinking from the water fountains at school,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “This is a problem for rural and urban students alike, and we need to make sure we’re not putting our kids in danger of lead poisoning.”
Last month, school officials at La Mirada Elementary in the San Ysidro community of San Diego announced the water at the school tested positive for lead contamination after a construction contractor discovered irregularities with the water during renovation. Beyond that community, a Reuters survey from early 2016 showed that California was home to eight zip codes with the highest concentrations of lead in their water supply.
Lead poisoning has been linked to brain damage that impairs learning and mental abilities. There are no safe levels of lead in drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The state of California offers free lead testing to schools in a pilot program that ends in November 2019, but that current program does not require schools to test for lead contamination. But few schools have taken the opportunity to test, leading the Assemblywoman to call for required testing.
“We can’t continue to let schools hide their heads in the sand any longer. We need to know how expansive this public health problem really is,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “This isn’t a problem confined to Flint, Michigan or old industrial areas that need to be cleaned up, and schools need to be proactive in making sure their students are safe from lead.”
AB 746 was introduced on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. It will be eligible for consideration next month.