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 a new California state requirement for water testing in schools.
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 must 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 w/in 2 school business days when the result 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 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.
The 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 a blood lead level test. 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.