The presence of lead in a school’s water is bound to raise a “high level of interest,” said Goleta Union School District’s superintendent, Bill Banning, confirming a tip that low levels of lead in three Goleta schools’ water had been found.
Banning explained that three days after learning of a state-funded water-testing program this January, Goleta Union asked its water district to test all its schools. By March, five taps out of 50 turned up positive for lead. The only one at the actionable level, 15 parts per billion (ppb), was a kitchen sink at Hollister School used to wash dishes. It was placed out of commission until a filter could be installed and the water retested. No one drank from that source, Banning emphasized. Also, a lower level of lead was found in two of Hollister’s drinking fountains: between 5 and 15ppb, a “reportable” finding. The district went ahead and removed one fountain — in the hallway outside Room 27 — and fit the other — 3rd-grade Room 20 — with an inline filter, said Banning, though neither was required to be fixed.
Kitchen sinks at Ellwood and Foothill schools, also used for dishwashing, Banning said, were found to have low levels of lead; water filters were placed on both. He added that all Goleta schools had added filtered-water filling stations for kids’ water bottles since 2013. A report would be made to the Goleta district trustees on June 28, he said, including the schools’ continued testing protocol for roughly 300 drinking fountains at a cost of about $15,000. In answer to the implied question about the seeming delay in reporting the lead findings, Banning said the state law concerning lead in water actually had a 90-day “cooling off” period before releasing information publicly, presumably to allow a school to fix problems before parents, and the press, jumped all over them.
The Independent checked with other schools in the area to see if soldered joints in copper pipes, the most common source of lead, were turning up similar results. Santa Barbara Unified had checked its schools in June 2016, said Lauren Bianchi Klemann, the district’s spokesperson. Each of the 172 drinking water samples came in below actionable levels for lead, she said, with the sole exception of a “pot filler fixture” in the kitchen at La Colina Junior High. That one was 15ppb, replaced, and re-tested at 2ppb. She stated the district plans to make the results known at its website. No formal notification was made to parents or the school board, however, as “the results did not indicate a health and safety concern.” The testing, conducted by Capco Analytical in Ventura, cost $7,700.
Out in Montecito, Cold Spring Elementary has dealt with all water issues by installing purified-water bottle-fillers, said Jeff Chancer, who is holding down the fort while the school and district await new principal and superintendent Amy Alzina. All drinking water sources are attached to a purified water system, he said. At Montecito Union, with the help of Montecito Water District, the school tests its lead and copper levels annually, said Superintendent Tammy Murphy. The samples have consistently been below the actionable level in both heavy metals, she said.