Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 4:30 am | A Few Clouds 67º


Lead Contamination Prompts Goleta School District to Shut Down Drinking Fountains

Filtered-water hydration stations being installed, more testing ordered after voluntary sampling showed excessive amounts of lead

The Goleta Union School District will test drinking water at all nine of its campuses, and has begun installing filtered-water hydration stations, above, after lead was found in some drinking fountains. Voluntary water testing revealed Ellwood Elementary School had the most lead, with six contaminated drinking fountains. Click to view larger
The Goleta Union School District will test drinking water at all nine of its campuses, and has begun installing filtered-water hydration stations, above, after lead was found in some drinking fountains. Voluntary water testing revealed Ellwood Elementary School had the most lead, with six contaminated drinking fountains. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

After the discovery of lead contamination in drinking fountains at four of the Goleta Union School District’s campuses, additional testing has been ordered, and filtered-water hydration stations are being installed.

Last spring, the district began conducting voluntary water testing at Ellwood, Foothill, Hollister, Mountain View, and Kellogg elementary schools, said Conrad Tedeschi, the district’s assistant superintendent of fiscal services.

The results showed levels of lead the over the federally recommended maximum of 15 parts per billion at Foothill (two taps), Hollister (three taps) and Mountain View (two taps), prompting district staff to shut down the drinking facets and replace the old water fountains with filtered water at new hydration stations.

Six drinking fountains at Ellwood Elementary School were found to be contaminated.

Kellogg’s water fountains didn’t exceed California governments' safe level of lead in drinking water.

“We have checked with the Public Health Department, and we have been assured this is not a great risk to public health,” Superintendent Donna Lewis said. “We are trying our hardest to ensure the health of our students and staff.” 

Tedeschi said the cases involved lead in a fixture, meaning the levels were present a few seconds after turning on a water source early in the morning that had been sitting in the pipes overnight.

“When we get the results back, and if anything is exceeding the (federal) level, we remove it right way,” Tedeschi said.

A statewide voluntary program began in January allowing for free testing of five taps at each school by the local water utility.

Water samples at the Goleta campuses were taken in classrooms, cafeterias, and outside drinking fountains, as well as some kitchen faucets, which are used for student to wash their hands or dishes.

“We took a good sample of the water at different parts of the campus," Tedeschi said. “Water was sampled from different geographic locations on the campus to get a good feel.” 

School district staff is conducting the latest testing only on the drinking fountains, Tedeschi said.

Tests won’t be taken from bathroom sinks, Tedeschi said.

“We are now going to the other sites — we will continue until we have every drinking fountain in the district tested,” Tedeschi said. “We figured it was the right thing to do after the limited sample.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last month requiring all schools to test for lead by 2019.

“We are ahead of everybody,” Lewis said. “A lot more schools and districts will be going through this process with their water district.” 

On average, Lewis said, each Goleta campus has about 30 water fountains. 

District administrators ordered and received 24 filtered-water stations, and will be installing them across all of the schools, even those that show negative results for lead, Lewis said. 

Lewis said the goal is to have all water stations installed by January.

“The only way we can guarantee clean water is to provide the hydration stations — it has a wonderful filtration, and we tested the water coming out, and it has no detected lead,” Lewis said. “We are vigilant and proactive.”

Lewis said the new water stations are the "cheapest and fastest possible solution.”

The cost of each station is about $1,400, she said.

A long-term solution to the issue of lead in drinking water could lead to installing renovated plumbing systems, but for now, the district doesn’t have the resources for a more substantial project that would tear down classrooms and walls, Lewis said.

More water testing results are expected to be presented at upcoming school board meetings. The water testing results will be posted on the district's website.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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