Unsafe lead levels found in drinking water at high school
Oakland Unified School District officials said Wednesday that unsafe levels of lead have been found at a water fountain and kitchen faucets at McClymonds High School in West Oakland but they’re making progress in fixing the problem.
The school district said its environmental health and safety manager went to school, which is located at 2607 Myrtle St., this week to test the water after the school’s leadership team and coaching staff told the district about the seriousness of problems with the water supply.
The district said the manager found unsafe levels of lead coming from one water fountain at McClymonds’ football field and from the kitchen faucets in the cafeteria.
District officials said lead was also discovered in the showers in the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, which are out of commission.
The district said the lead problems are in addition to sediment issues that already existed across McClymonds’ campus, which can make the water brownish in color.
Tests showed that the fountainhead and the kitchen faucets were themselves the sources of the lead, according to the school district.
Crews from the district’s Buildings and Grounds division replaced all those items in the final days before the school year started on Monday, the district said.
Crews also installed new spigots at the football field so teams will have easy access to water, according to the district.
Subsequent testing of the water in those locations shows that lead is no longer a problem, the district said.
The showerheads, which are the source of the lead in the showers, will also be replaced, according to the district.
New showerhead assemblies are being ordered and the project is expected to be finished later in the fall, school officials said.
The district said McClymonds has old pipes, which at this stage of their lifespan can shed sediment and cause cloudy water to come from the fountains and faucets until the sediment clears.
The district said the water is not a health threat but it plans to install filters on all water fountains in the school.
In the meantime, the school district has installed 11 water dispensers around campus, including in the cafeteria, and students will not be able to drink from the fountains for the time being.
Staff has also installed filters on the new kitchen faucets to ensure that water used in the cafeteria is not only safe but entirely clear, according to the district.
“We know this has been a challenging situation for the McClymonds community,” Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a statement.
Johnson-Trammell said, “We want everyone to know we share their concerns and want nothing but the best for our young people and our staff.” The school district said the mid-term solution for the sediment issue in the kitchen and at the football field is to install new pipes, a process that will necessitate help from the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
District officials said the long-term solution is to replace the entire piping system throughout the campus, which is an enormous project that’s estimated to cost about $2.3 million and take a year or more to complete.
School district leaders said they want the entire McClymonds community to know that they are doing everything they can to keep the students and staff safe and healthy.
They said that while the most serious problems have been fixed, resolving the lead issue in the showers will take weeks and fully resolving the sediment issue will take at least a year.
Johnson-Trammel promised to keep students, staff members, families and other stakeholders apprised throughout that process.