Three Yuba County Schools Dealing With Heightened Levels of Lead in Water

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YUBA COUNTY -- Three schools in Yuba County have been dealing with illegal, or heightened, levels of lead in their water for months. The Marysville Joint Unified School District was alerted to the contamination issues last summer and since then have tried to come up with ways to fix the problem.

Since the beginning of the school year signs reading "Non-Potable water not for drinking or cooking use" have been plastered all around Foothill Intermediate School, Loma Rica and Dobbins Elementary Schools.

Tests show water at Dobbins and Loma Rica is contaminated by lead. Dobbins even tested high for copper. Lead in Foothill's water is also high, but just under the maximum level allowed. But because of the school's close proximity to Loma Rica, the district took proactive measures before Yuba County sent a compliance order and banned water there too.

"When you have older systems galvanized steel piping there could be leaks in the system something minor but it could bring in some mineral element that isn't supposed to be there," explained Ryan DiGiulio, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services at MJUSD.

While MJUSD works with the county and state for a permanent fix, their temporary solution are water stations. Foothill Intermediate receives 36 jugs of water every three weeks for the schools.

Students and staff can still wash their hands, but anything they drink or use to prepare lunch has to come from the water stations.

"The safety of our students remains our number one priority," said Kathleen Hansen, Principal of Foothill Intermediate and Loma Rica Elementary.

Officials said lead levels have gone up and down throughout the years, but in a letter sent to parents in the fall about the contamination, the district stated it was the first time the county health department required specialists to recommend ways to improve the water system.

DiGiulio explained their idea for a permanent fix, "You would put a filter in the pipe right before the faucet and that would take out all the levels."

The next step is for a corrosion specialist to approve that plan then the district will send it to the county and it will get to state officials who will make the decision on whether or not to move forward with the filtering system. There's no set timeline on if or when this will be approved. In the meantime students and staff will continue avoiding water at the schools and drinking the clean water provided by the district.