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Water fountains at SF public schools receive clean bills of health

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(S.F. Examiner file photo)

The dangerous levels of lead detected at drinking faucets and water fountains in five San Francisco public schools last school year are no longer present following remediation work performed over the summer, according to new test results released by The City.

The San Francisco Unified School District notified parents in October 2017 that unsafe levels had been detected at West Portal Elementary, Malcolm X Elementary, and San Francisco International High School. In the months that followed, unsafe levels were also found at Downtown Continuation High School and Life Learning Academy Charter High School on Treasure Island.

But on Friday, without any public announcement, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission posted new test results to its website showing safe levels at the schools.

“We have completed our mitigation,” SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick said in an email.

The school district had taken drinking faucets out of service where lead was found in concentrations above 15 parts per billion, the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency for when action must be taken, until mitigation work could be completed.

SEE RELATED: Unsafe levels of lead found in water at three SF public schools

That work included flushing pipes to get rid of stagnant water, replacing fixtures, cleaning out faucet screens and installing lead filters, according to Nik Kaestner, SFUSD director of sustainability.

While The City’s water supply is considered safe, lead can leach into the water through old plumbing systems in some buildings.

Follow-up water samples collected in September from the faucets that previously showed unsafe levels confirm the remediation work was successful.

School officials said last month they expected the results “any day,” but the results took weeks longer to finally arrive.

SEE RELATED: School district awaits lead testing results for drinking water

Samples taken from one faucet at Downtown High School showed levels of 43 parts per billion, well above the 15 parts per billion action level, but Dudnick said it was not one of the locations that underwent remediation work.

“After the SFPUC initially tested that faucet at Downtown, our plumbing office determined the faucet is not a drinking location and did not place a filter on it,” she said. “The SFPUC continued to test the faucet anyway even though it is not a drinking location.”

Dudnick did not respond to requests asking where in Downtown High School that faucet is located, or what type of faucet it is.

The school district’s water testing plan only calls for remediation work to be performed on faucets considered to be drinking water locations, which does not include bathroom sinks, science classroom sinks, schoolyard sinks, kitchen dishwashing sinks, or custodian sinks. Students are instructed not to drink from those locations.

The complete test results can be found on the SFPUC website.

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