In the News: Lead Testing in Schools

February 5, 2018

On Feb. 1, 2018, the Department of Education (DOE) issued a press release about AB746, signed into law last year, which now requires that California public schools built before 2010 test for lead in their drinking water by July 1, 2019. The release called out health effects of lead exposure “even at low levels” and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates “10-20% of total lead exposure for young children comes from drinking water.

Cal Water remains committed to protecting our customers’ health and safety. This includes supporting our schools’ efforts to protect students and ensure the drinking water coming through the plumbing fixtures at their school sites meet lead limits.

We have been contacting schools and school districts in our service areas to engage them in our school lead testing program, which is—of course—provided at no charge to them, and have the drinking water tested at their school sites.

Our trained staff will work with school officials to identify sample sites, develop a sampling plan, and collect and test samples within 90 days. We will also conduct follow-up testing if any test results exceed the “action level” of 15 parts per billion, and assist the schools in identifying potential corrective actions.

A few quick facts about lead and lead testing:

  • State officials are most concerned with school facilities constructed before 2010 because plumbing materials used in construction of the older schools could contain some lead components, which over time could affect the water on site.
  • State public health experts have set the action level at 15 parts per billion, which is the level under which any health risks due to exposure are minimal. This is even more stringent than the federal action level of 20 parts per billion. Schools in California will take corrective action if their test results exceed 15 parts per billion.
  • While 10-20% of total lead exposure for young children is estimated to come from drinking water – only a portion of which may be from their school’s drinking water, it’s important to know that 80-90% of total lead exposure comes from other sources, so families should consider remediation of any other products that contain lead to which they may be exposed.