“Clean Water in Schools Act” Clears Senate Committee

SB 210 Prioritizes Contaminated Schools to Receive Clean Water Grants

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

SACRAMENTO – With unanimous support, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee today approved legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will help ensure that K-12 students across California have access to clean drinking water at school.

SB 210 would prioritize schools that test their water and have contamination problems when they apply for clean water relief grants. The bill would also require schools that find significant sources of lead or other harmful contaminants in their water to immediately cut off access to contaminated water sources, provide alternative clean water, and notify parents, staff, and students about water issues present at the school site.

Earlier this year, testing of drinking water at several San Ysidro School District schools found high levels of lead and other contaminants.  Though the school district acted promptly to address the issue, those water fixtures had been in use since the early 1970’s.  In 2015, NBC 4 Los Angeles aired an investigative report which found that the Los Angeles Unified School District may still have lead-tainted water at some of their schools due to old plumbing. In the Inland Empire, Chino Valley Unified School District had also identified issues with lead in their drinking water in 2013. While these school districts may have acted promptly once the contamination problems were found, many other school districts across California could also have unsafe drinking water due to old plumbing.

“Since students spend many of their waking hours during the week at school, it is vitally important that we make sure that the water coming out of school water fountains is clean and safe to drink,” Senator Leyva said.  “By helping schools to test water sources and then promptly fixing contamination issues, SB 210 will keep drinking water on school campuses safe.  The last thing that a child or parent should have to worry about is whether drinking water on school campuses is contaminated.”

Senator Leyva introduced SB 334 in 2015 which sought to require that schools test their water sources and provide children with clean water.  Despite strong bipartisan support, Governor Brown vetoed the bill and directed the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to develop testing procedures for schools.  SWRCB announced recently that it is requiring all community water systems to test school drinking water for free upon request by the school’s officials.  SB 210 will incentivize schools to take advantage of this free testing.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to lead and other contaminants is a significant health concern for young children, especially because they are more susceptible than adults to lead’s harmful effects. The EPA has particular concern for schools where the plumbing may contain lead and urges water testing at school sites.

SB 210 is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics – California Chapter, American Heart Association / American Stroke Association, California Association of Joint Power Authorities, California State PTA, California School Board Association, California Teacher Association, Children Now, Clean Water Action, Community Water Center and Physicians for Social Responsibility – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and Environmental Working Group.

SB 210 previously passed from the Senate Education Committee with unanimous support and will next proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.