LEMOORE — In January, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced public schools can receive free testing for lead in drinking water under a new state program.
The State Water Resources Control Board, in cooperation with the California Department of Education, recently required all community water systems to test school drinking water upon request by school officials if the public school is served by the community water system.
“Students should have access to clean drinking water at all times,” Torlakson said in a statement. “Students need fresh water, nutritious meals, and appropriate physical activity to be ready to learn in class.”
At the Lemoore City Council’s last regular meeting on April 18, Public Works Director Nathan Olson said Lemoore Union Elementary School District and the Lemoore Union High School District have already asked the department to test for lead in their schools' water systems.
Julie Fagundes, chief business official for Lemoore Union Elementary School District, said the district decided to jump on this free opportunity and requested the testing in February, shortly after the state department of education’s announcement.
Fagundes said public works staff have already met with the district’s maintenance and operations director and will be collecting water samples from five locations at each of the district's school sites from water fountains and water from the kitchen areas.
Fagundes said the process of collecting the sample is a bit tricky because the samples have to stand undisturbed for at least six hours and can’t be collected from running water, so testing has to be done sometime before students get to school in the morning.
Lemoore Union High School District Superintendent Debbie Muro said the district decided to contact the public works department about three weeks ago after hearing what the California Department of Education was offering and to just be proactive in the process.
Muro said she has no cause for concern right now and she doesn’t know of any water issues at the schools, but some of the buildings at Lemoore High School are old and the district decided to be more aware of lead levels.
The public works department would have to test between eight to 12 faucets, sinks and water fountains as part of their sample collections. She said Lemoore High and Jamison High schools will be tested, but not Lemoore Middle College High School because the school is located on West Hills College Lemoore grounds.
“Nothing has started yet, but hopefully soon,” Muro said, adding the public works department informed her they would be out to test sometime in the next couple months.
Lead problems are infrequent in California, which has newer water infrastructure and less corrosive water than other parts of the nation, according to the state department of education. Gov. Jerry Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to incorporate schools into the regular water quality testing that community water systems conduct on customer’s taps.
California’s water agencies regularly test for lead and other contaminants in their systems to comply with both state and federal laws and also use corrosion control measures to prevent any lead that might be present from leaching into tap water.
Ben Stidman, maintenance, operations and transportation director at Hanford Joint Union High School District said all the district’s school sites use city water for all potable water use. He said they have not asked the city to test schools sites yet, but are planning to work with the city to have all sites tested in the future.
“After talking with the city about lead testing, I was informed that they conduct tests to verify supplied water is safe,” Stidman said. "Testing water is important, although there is no indication that there is any problem with local water."
If school officials make a written request, the community water systems must collect the samples within three months and then report results within two business days. Sampling locations can include drinking fountains, cafeteria and food preparation areas and reusable water bottle filling stations.
The community water systems are responsible for the costs associated with collecting drinking water samples, analyzing them and reporting results. The program extends until November 1, 2019.