When a school therapy dog refused to drink from his bowl, teacher noticed something weird about the water.
A teacher at San Diego Unified became concerned when her therapy dog refused to drink the water in his bowl, which had come from the classroom tap sink. Upon closer inspection, she noticed a strange sheen on the surface of the water and notified administration. District sampling of various water outlets revealed contaminants exceeding allowable levels by California state.
District authorities informed its water provider, the city of San Diego. The city agreed to conduct free testing across the entire district, consisting of 187 campuses. Testing will consist of five samples from each site, taken from drinking fountains, food preparation areas, and classrooms. Coincidentally, the school had recently been in correspondence with the city regarding water tests, as a part of a new state program. Additionally, the incident with the dog happened January 26th— yet parents and staff weren’t notified until late this month.
San Diego Unified Chief Operations Officer Drew Rowlands announced that the district-wide water testing will commence April 4 and be completed before school is out in for the summer in June. Until then, staff and students will be provided bottled water at the two schools that share the campus, Emerson-Bandini Elementary and San Diego Co-Operative Charter School 2. The water has been approved for hand-washing.
“The safety and health of students and staff across San Diego Unified is the highest priority for the district,” Rowlands said.
Water testing already confirmed unsafe levels of lead at Emerson-Bandini. Contaminated water with elevated levels of lead, copper, and bacteria was also discovered recently at several San Ysidro schools nearby in South Bay. Testing will occur at five schools daily, beginning at the oldest schools in the southeast corner of the district, and expand north and west thereafter.
Once the source of contamination is identified, steps will be taken on a “case-by-case basis”. This may involve shutting off the water or replacing fixtures and pipes. Lead poisoning is a serious condition that is often difficult to identify, given the multitude of wide-ranging symptoms; including abdominal pain, headaches, memory loss, kidney dysfunction and high blood pressure, among others. Children are especially vulnerable to lead toxicity, as it may stunt their intellectual development.
“We are grateful to the city of San Diego for its partnership and cooperation on this vast undertaking,” Rowlands said Thursday. “The comprehensive effort will take multiple months to complete due to the relevant regulatory requirements.” The upheaval comes at a particularly bad time for San Diego Unified, as the district braces for proposed budget cuts of $117 million in the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. Among the cutbacks, the school may suffer from layoffs of teachers, medical and support staff, as well as reductions to maintenance and custodial services.