FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2017
Asha Kreiling, Policy & Communications Analyst, Community Water Center
916-706-3346 (office), 650-766-9309 (cell), Asha.Kreiling@CommunityWaterCenter.org
Free Water Testing for Lead Available to California Schools
Sacramento, CA – Yesterday afternoon, the State Water Resources Control Board sent a permit amendment notice to all public water systems in California requiring them to offer free tap water testing for lead contamination to the schools they serve. The move comes after mounting concerns over the lack of requirements for water quality testing in schools, especially after the disaster in Flint, Michigan.
Lead contamination of water typically occurs when pipes, faucets, or fixtures that contain lead corrode. Neither the state nor the federal Lead and Copper Rule requires tap water testing in schools. Under this new policy, school districts will need to request testing from their public water system.
“The state has taken action to protect kids from toxic water, and now we need students, parents, and school officials to take action by actually requesting lead testing at their schools,” said Asha Kreiling of Community Water Center. “And if we want to truly address the problem, the results of this lead testing need to be public, not hidden or difficult to access.”
The permit amendment allows school districts to request lead tests of drinking water fountains and other water sources on school sites. The school’s water provider will be required to test the water and then discuss remediation options if any of the samples show unsafe levels of lead. The State Water Resources Control Board will manage an internal database of the test results.
Consumption of unsafe water is a serious health risk to children as they are more vulnerable than adults to the health effects of exposure to lead and other contaminants.
"As a parent, I want my children to be safe when I send them to school," said Veronica Solis, whose son attends Orosi High School in Tulare County. "I'm so glad this service is available, and I will absolutely be requesting that the school district test the water for lead."
Community Water Center, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, and other advocacy groups are continuing to track the creation of a program at the State Water Board to install safe water access points in schools. California allocated $9.5 million in funding from the 2016-17 state budget to improve access to safe water in schools, some of which may be used to support schools that discover lead contamination as a result of this new testing.
"Rural communities, especially schools, need better access to safe drinking water. The State Water Board's permit amendment is a big step in the right direction, but we are also committed to continued advocacy for increased state funding to help address the root drinking water problems," said Stan Keasling, CEO of Rural Community Assistance Corporation.
Advocates are pleased that the state has taken this step to collect more school water quality data but say more work is still needed to ensure students have safe water. In addition to the need for a public data set on lead in school water, advocates say the state does not adequately track the quality of water access points at schools.
“The extent to which schools face water quality and access challenges at the tap is poorly understood because testing at the tap has been piecemeal, as has reporting," Kreiling said. "We need to do everything we can to ensure our children aren’t getting sick from drinking water, and that means public reporting of this new data on lead in schools as well as investment in a safe drinking water fund that can address operation and maintenance needs in schools and communities.”
Community Water Center (CWC) is a nonprofit environmental justice organization based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy. CWC’s fundamental goal is to ensure that all communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water. CWC helps build strategic grassroots capacity to address water challenges in small, rural, low-income communities and communities of color. For more information, visit CWC’s website atwww.communitywatercenter.org and follow us on Twitter at @CWaterC.
If you would would like to learn more about how to test your school's water and get involved in advocacy for safe water in schools, please contact CWC's Asha Kreiling at Asha.Kreiling@CommunityWaterCenter.org or 916-706-3346. We look forward to hearing from you!