SFUSD has been testing for lead in drinking water and making plumbing upgrades in schools since the 1980s. As part of school modernization projects, a majority of sites have had their fixtures and/or plumbing replaced as necessary. At the end of construction, newly installed drinking fixtures at those schools were tested and cleared.
The district also tests and clears each new water bottle filling station before allowing students to use them. Furthermore, custodians are required to flush drinking fountains each morning to remove any sediments from the water source.
In April 2017, SFUSD partnered with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to voluntarily begin a new round of water testing. Our program complies with the California state requirement for water testing in schools.
During the summer of 2022, the District partnered with the SFPUC for another round of water testing to test all outlets used by licensed child care centers for drinking or food preparation. This program compiled with Assembly Bill 2370 (AB 2370) which requires all licensed child care centers constructed before January 1, 2010 to test for lead levels between January 1, 2020 and January 1, 2023 and then every 5 years after the date of the first test.
The testing process, remediation plans, and test results for 2018 and 2022 are detailed below.
Testing & Remediation
While community water systems (like the SFPUC) extensively and regularly test drinking water for lead, lead can get into clean water at a school campus if there are corroded pipes or old fixtures at the school. For this reason, under State law, community water systems were required to complete lead sampling on the drinking water supplies of K-12 public schools and preschools built before 2010 by July 1, 2019.
SFUSD met this requirement early, completing testing in summer/fall 2018:
- Schools were tested in batches, with priority given to elementary schools.
- During the initial round of testing, the SFPUC collected five samples per site at the most frequently used fixtures as identified by school principals. Sampling locations included drinking fountains, cafeteria and food preparation areas, and reusable water bottle filling stations.
- The SFPUC provided the results to the district within 10 business days of receiving them from the lab, or within 2 school business days when the results were greater than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
- SFUSD notified the principal and school community upon hearing of lead levels above the EPA action limit at any of its sites.
Fixtures that tested above the regulatory action level were immediately taken out of service and an alternate source of water was provided if onsite water sources were significantly impacted. Custodial flushing routines were also modified as needed. Finally, the SFPUC conducted additional testing of all water fixtures in the school.
In the spring and summer of 2018, SFUSD implemented remediation plans for drinking water faucets at affected schools. These included full-site pipe flushing, cleaning of aerator screens, fixture replacements, and/or the installation of lead filters at drinking fountains, bottle fillers, bubblers/faucets in non-science classrooms, sinks in staff lounges and offices, food prep sinks in kitchens, and sinks in nurse's/wellness offices.
Lead Test Results
The CA State Water Resources Control Board released an online map that shows which public schools in California have had their drinking water tested for lead. Test results are also available on the SFPUC website.
The vast majority of schools did not have any fixtures above the EPA threshold and no immediate mitigation is planned.
Downtown HS, Malcolm X Academy, SF International HS, and West Portal ES were found to contain fixtures above the EPA threshold and have been mitigated as described above.
NOTE: The following water fixtures were tested by the SFPUC but are not considered drinking water locations: bathroom sinks, science classroom sinks, schoolyard sinks and hose bibbs, kitchen dishwashing sinks, custodial and mechanical room sinks. Students and staff at impacted sites are advised not to drink from these locations since they were not remediated.
Testing & Remediation
In September 2018, the Governor approved the Assembly Bill 2370 (AB 2370) that requires all licensed child care centers constructed before January 1, 2010 to test for lead levels in their drinking water between January 1, 2020 and January 1, 2023, and then every 5 years after the date of the first test. During the summer of 2022, the District partnered with the SFPUC to test all outlets used by licensed child care centers for drinking or food preparation.
In total, testing was completed at 37 sites with licensed child care centers. A total of 244 water outlets were sampled. Results were shared with school staff and families. Outlets that tested above 5 ppb were taken out of service and remediated. Outlets were only put back into service if they were re-tested with a result of less than 5 ppb.
Additional Testing for Co-located Sites
Twenty-five of the licensed child care centers are co-located at K-5 elementary school sites. Results above 5 ppb were found at 6 of the licensed child care centers co-located at K-5 school sites. Given that the piping used by the child care center and K-5 students is likely the same, the District conducted lead testing on outlets used by the K-5 students at the 6 sites with a co-located licensed child care center that had lead results over 5 ppb.
Testing began on April 29, 2023 in partnership with the SFPUC and was completed May 27, 2023. Any outlet that tested above 5 ppb was taken out of service and bottle water was provided if requested by the site. As of August 2023, the District is currently determining next steps for remediation. Outlets will not be placed back in service until there is a re-test with a result under 5 ppb.
Lead Testing Results
The latest test result for each outlet sampled can be found on this 2022 and 2023 Lead Testing Results spreadsheet.
Future plans for lead testing
SFUSD has identified water quality as an emerging priority in the Facilities Master Plan (FMP), a 10-year work plan for our District’s facilities. Additional information on water quality can be found on Page 40 of the FMP.
Moving forward, a school lead testing program is planned for the Fall of 2024 to meet new testing requirements that are expected to be released as part of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule Revisions. When the regulatory standards are formalized, SFUSD will again partner with SFPUC to comply with the requirements and ensure that drinking sources continue to be safe for students.
Faucets with results above the action level have varying levels of use. If you are concerned that your child may have been exposed, the first step is to get their blood tested for lead levels. Every child in San Francisco is eligible for health insurance coverage, and all health insurance plans are required to pay for the blood lead test. If you need help finding a free place to test your child, you may call the CA Department of Public Health Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health toll-free Hotline at (800) 300-9950.
- California Department of Public Health: Lead in Tap Water Fact Sheet, Frequently Asked Questions on Lead and Additional Resources
- SF Public Utilities Commission: Lead and Drinking Water - Tips for Schools
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Sources of Lead in Drinking Water Infographic
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: Lead in Drinking Water
If you have questions or concerns about your site and the actions we are taking, please contact your school.
This page was last updated on September 29, 2023