Elevated levels of lead found in faucets and courtyard at SF school; district wants students tested

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Elevated levels of lead found in faucets and courtyard at SF school
Buena Vista Horace Mann school is using a $40 million bond to make improvements after elevated levels of lead were found in the campus' faucets and courtyard. With the high number of individuals exposed to the metal, district officials are urging them to get tested.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's Buena Vista Horace Mann school is in the middle of receiving improvements thanks to a $40 million bond.

As part of that project, the school district has now detected elevated levels of lead in a courtyard and multiple faucets.

At Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 school, lead was found two feet below the surface of the courtyard.

"We have 600 students on campus and that garden was accessed by potentially all 600 students and for multiple years," said Nick Chandler, the Community School Coordinator at Buena Vista Horace. "So not even necessarily just the students that are here but since the contaminant was there."

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Chandler says lead in the courtyard's soil is just an example of the many issues at the school. For at least a decade, teachers have been documenting discoloration in the water.

"We've been told that it's safe to drink," said Chandler. "It's safe to drink, it's hard to trust that after the number of times that we've been endangered by the building."

Preliminary test results indicate elevated levels of lead in three of 11 tested faucets. But what about the water itself?

"Right now we are in the process of working with the SFPUC to test the water at Buena Vista Horace Man," said Laura Dudnick, Spokesperson for the SFUSD.

The school district sent over 2,000 water bottles for staff and students and the three faucets will be "taken out of service and replaced."

The last time they tested the water for lead was in 2018.

"At that time, the results came back that there were not actionable levels of lead in the water," said Dudnick. "It was safe to continue drinking. Now because we detected hazardous materials in the soil, we are conducting testing for water again."

Supervisor Hillary Ronen asked the City's Department of Public health to test every student for lead exposure.

"We have asked DPH to intervene and do the testing," said Supervisor Ronen. "Sadly, they said that is not their responsibility and they are not going to do it. So we are probably going to have to take some sort of legislative, or other action to make that happen."

According to the school's community coordinator, staff, parents, and students are planning a "day of action" for Thursday. They are requesting for the unified school district to facilitate lead exposure testing. The school district said that if parents want to get their students tested, the school district will reimburse the cost, but chandler says many parents don't have the means to do that.

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