Senate Approves “Clean Water in Schools Act”

SB 210 Prioritizes Contaminated Schools to Receive Clean Water Grants

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SACRAMENTO – The California State Senate today passed important legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) on a 39-0 vote to ensure that K-12 students across California have access to clean drinking water at school.

SB 210 would give schools that test their water and have contamination problems priority when applying for clean water relief grants. The bill will help to prevents students, teachers and other people from drinking contaminated water at schools that find significant sources of lead or other harmful contaminants

Testing of drinking water at several San Ysidro School District schools earlier this year 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 individual school districts may have acted promptly once the contamination problems were found, other school districts across California could still have unsafe drinking water due to old plumbing.

“With parents across the country and California—especially in disadvantaged areas—being concerned that their children might be exposed to dirty drinking water at school, we must do all we can here in California to protect kids and anyone else on school campuses, “Senator Leyva said.  “Lead contaminated water can seriously hurt the lives and education of children.  By incentivizing schools to test water sources and address contamination through better access to state grants, SB 210 will finally give local schools the tools they need to protect schoolchildren from drinking unsafe water during the school day.”

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.  As a result of SB 334, SWRCB announced 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.

Now advancing to the Assembly, SB 210 is supported by the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association, California School Boards Association, California State PTA, Children Now, Community Water Center and the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano County.