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Important facts, materials relating to Emerson-Bandini water testing

Important facts, materials relating to Emerson-Bandini water testing
Posted on 03/30/2017

San Diego Unified School District

An NBC 7 report on March 30 contained multiple inaccuracies regarding the district's work to provide clean, safe drinking water at all of its school sites. Therefore, in order to directly provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to the students, parents and the community we serve, moving forward the district will be updating its website on a regular basis to share the facts in this matter.

On January 26, the district received reports of possible water contamination at the Emerson campus of Emerson-Bandini Elementary School and the San Diego Cooperative Charter School 2. That same day, the district decided to begin providing students with bottled water to drink and launched an investigation into the cause or causes of the possible contamination.

Since the initial incident above, students have been receiving clean drinking water from the district's existing bottled water supply.

A work order from the day of the above incident, January 26, confirms the water was delivered to the school. Further, a February 10 news report confirmed students were receiving bottled water at school. (See "Odor in water prompts testing at San Diego elementary school, Emerson-Bandini Elementary using bottled water" by Rielle Creighton, Feb. 10, 2017.

Throughout this time, Emerson-Bandini's principal has been taking all possible measures to keep parents informed and students safe. These measures have included informing parents at regular school meetings, posting signs on drinking fountains, and cautioning students at their weekly Monday morning assemblies. (See attached letter to parents sent March 30.) In addition to the routine updates provided by the principal, a school-wide email was sent to parents on February 10. The district also gave updates to several media outlets at that time.

Extensive testing, done in partnership with an outside consultant and performed by the City of San Diego, eventually identified the likely source of the contamination. The results of this testing were shared and reported on March 24 by NBC 7. (See "Higher Than Allowable Levels of Lead' Found in Water at Emerson-Bandini," by Rory Devine, R. Stickney and Rafael Avitabile. That source was found to be related to the degradation of some plastic piping, and the suspected source of that contaminant was remedied by district staff. Additional testing by the City of San Diego confirmed the problem had been successfully addressed. (See test attached.)

Unrelated to the above issue, and based on a new state policy that took effect in December 2016, San Diego Unified and the City of San Diego had been in talks to begin lead testing in all district schools. The new policy requires municipal water providers, like the City of San Diego, to test for lead if requested by school districts. (Please see this story in the San Diego Union Tribune entitled "State offers free testing for lead in drinking water at schools"). Based on this collaboration with the city, the district asked the Public Utilities Department to test the water at Emerson-Bandini for lead first - before the April 4 start date of district-wide testing.

Preliminary results shared with the district by the city showed higher than allowable lead levels at three sites across the Emerson campus. The district shared this information with parents via email and letter on March 24, despite its preliminary nature. As previously mentioned, district staff also shared the preliminary findings with the media on March 24. The district further promised to share the final results of the city's testing upon delivery to San Diego Unified- a commitment the district kept on March 29 when it posted the results online for parents to review and shared it with NBC 7 via email.

Yet, despite all the above efforts at transparency and open communication, NBC 7 chose to report that the district is withholding important information from the public. Such accusations provide a disservice to parents seeking honest information about the well-being of their children. San Diego Unified remains committed to providing timely updates to the families we serve. For ongoing updates regarding lead testing, please visit https://www.sandiegounified.org/watersampling.