Animated timeline of northeast Fresno’s water troubles
Under a new state law, public schools in California must be tested before July 2019 for lead in the drinking water. The Bee has compiled a map of schools in Fresno to make the results of these tests more accessible.
So far, we’ve received data from Fresno Unified, Clovis Unified, Washington Unified and the Fresno County Office of Education, with requests pending at Central Unified and Sanger Unified. Private schools are not included in the mandate by Assembly Bill 746, although they can request testing, too.
Bookmark this story. We’ll update the map as we receive more information and the results from future tests.
What do the different-colored markers mean?
Blue markers mean either testing or the test results are pending. Green means the site has been tested and no reportable levels of lead were found. Red means the site was tested and reportable levels of lead were found — in the notes section, you’ll find what the district did to fix the situation. Yellow markers denote schools that are exempt from the testing, either because they were built after 2010 or tested for lead after 2009 and made the results available.
What do I do if lead has been found at my school?
If you’re concerned your child has been exposed to lead, you should contact your medical provider for testing. You can contact the Fresno County Department of Public Health for educational materials and information.
How is testing done?
The community water provider — in the above school districts’ cases, Fresno city, Clovis city or Pinedale County Water District — conducts the test on each school site by sampling water from five of the most commonly-used fixtures like drinking fountains near the snack bars and playgrounds. If a reportable level of lead is found, the provider has to alert the school district within two business days. The school is then required to report it to parents, shut off the water source and provide an alternate source of water nearby.
A reportable level means 15 parts per billion or greater per sample. That means it’s possible some tests may have registered a level of lead below that, but the district is not required to notify parents or take action. An FAQ sent to water agencies says schools are encouraged to share all results with parents, not just when the levels reach 15 parts per billion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to testing water for lead from the Centers for Disease Control.
Why is this a big deal?
Lead exposure is a risk to young children in particular, and can lead to lead poisoning, which affects mental and physical development. The 15 ppb threshold is not necessarily the level that lead in the water is safe; research has shown that any lead exposure can be worrisome. But homes in Flint, Michigan, for comparison, have lead levels of anywhere from 27 ppb to 158 ppb.
Two years ago, residents of northeast Fresno complained of rust-colored water flowing from their indoor fixtures, some of which were found to have high levels of lead. Their lawsuit against the city is still pending.
“Fountains are already tested and, as you well know, Fresno’s water supply is clean, safe, reliable & has always met state/federal standards for lead & copper,” the tweet read.
District officials have said that lead findings are likely the result of individual pipes and fixtures, not the quality of the water itself.