Updated information on FCUSD school water testing
Updated January 2017
During the 2015-16 school year, the Folsom Cordova Unified School District began testing and initiating plumbing improvements at several schools after elevated levels of certain metals, including lead, were discovered in the tap water in limited campus locations. Upon learning of the problem, the District began delivering bottled water to affected sites and advised students and staff not to consume tap water in certain locations.
Out of an abundance of caution, Folsom Cordova will over the long-term continue to test sites throughout District. These questions and answers are intended to help clarify questions our families, students and staff may have as we work together to ensure our facilities continue to provide safe drinking water to our sites.
How did this problem surface?
During the 2015-16 school year, the District discovered elevated levels of certain metals, including copper, iron, and lead, in the tap water in a classroom at the Cordova Lane Center, a Rancho Cordova site that houses some preschool, special education and family engagement services.
Upon learning of the problem, the District began delivering bottled water and advised students and staff to stop drinking tap water. We have since completed repairs to aging water lines serving that campus and re-tested the tap water using state environmental management guidelines. Those test results indicate the tap water is now safe to resume drinking in the site’s classrooms.
In the meantime, out of an abundance of caution, we began testing FCUSD schools that were built before 1960 and have galvanized steel pipes (scroll down for more details). Additional schools will be identified for testing in the future. The District also is aware that state law now requires water systems to provide free testing to school districts upon request, and we will explore that resource further.
Which other schools have been tested, and what were the outcomes?
The following schools were tested last spring, and NO lead was detected:
- Blanche Sprentz Elementary
- Cordova Gardens Elementary
- Mills Middle School: Note: One sample we collected contained a high level of iron, but health officials do not consider that a hazard.
- Rancho Cordova Elementary
- Walnutwood High School (note: while not constructed pre-1960, this site was tested as a precaution due to the site's Adolescent Parent Program)
Lead was detected in limited locations at the following sites during testing last spring:
- Theodore Judah Elementary: While no lead was detected elsewhere in the school, a small detection of lead - far below the federal maximum set by the Environmental Protection Agency - was found in one sample in the multipurpose room kitchen in 2016. Before remediation efforts commenced, the District prohibited staff, students, and families from consuming tap water in this building, and bottled water was provided to students and employees using the multipurpose room. Water also was not used for preparing food. In the fall of 2016 the District completed remediation efforts, including replacing fixtures in the multipurpose room, and retested the water. Subsequent tests have shown no lead is present in the water in the multipurpose room. Note: One sample we collected contained a high level of iron, but health officials do not consider that a hazard.
- Mather Heights Elementary: While no lead was detected elsewhere in the school, one sample did detect lead - just under the federal maximum set by the Environmental Protection Agency - in the school’s multipurpose room kitchen. Although the District replaced fixtures in the multipurpose room in the fall of 2016, subsequent tests still show levels of lead just above the federal action level set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The District will need to further inspect water lines serving the multipurpose room before further remediation efforts can commence. In the meantime, the Folsom Cordova Maintenance and Operations Department continues to prohibit staff, students and families from consuming tap water in this building. Bottled water will continue to be provided to students and staff using the multipurpose room. Although according to county health officials this water is safe for hand-washing and cleaning, this water will not be used for preparing food until further remediation efforts and testing can be conducted.
- Sutter Middle School: While no lead was detected elsewhere in the school, one sample did detect a small reading of lead - far below the federal maximum set by the Environmental Protection Agency - in a sink in the nurse’s office in our administration building. The District anticipates replacing fixtures and retesting the water in the coming weeks. Additional remediation efforts, including new water lines, will be included as part of the schoolwide, long-term, modernization project currently under construction. In the meantime, the Folsom Cordova Maintenance and Operations Department is prohibiting staff, students and families from consuming tap water in this building. Although according to county health officials this water is safe for hand-washing and cleaning, this water will not be used until further remediation efforts and testing can be conducted. Students needing to take regulated medication in the nurse’s office will be provided bottled water until further notice.
Will the District continue to test sites?
Additional schools will be identified for testing in the future to ensure we are continuing to provide safe drinking water to our students and staff. The District also is aware that state law now requires water systems to provide free testing to school districts upon request, and we will explore that resource further. If at any time in the future we discover contamination, we will notify families and staff and begin appropriate remediation work.
Are students, staff, and families at risk?
We have not received any reports from students or staff of any symptoms or sickness typically associated with such irregularities in the drinking water. Generally, health concerns most often are an issue when a person has consumed contaminated water over a long period of time. Additionally, the water agencies that service all of our schools have not detected lead in their annual water quality reports.
We encourage any family member with health concerns to contact their physician and/or their pediatrician. (If you need assistance finding a pediatrician or need insurance for your child, you may contact the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program at (916) 875-7151.)
If you have any other questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact your school, or the District's Office of Communication and Community Engagement, at (916) 294-9000 ext. 104530.
How did the District discover the problem at Cordova Lane (the first site to be tested)?
During the 2015-16 school year, a staff member reported discolored water coming out of the tap in a classroom. The District sought independent tests, which revealed elevated levels of certain metals, including copper, iron, and lead. Based on test results, it appears elevated metals were only present intermittently, typically on Monday mornings when water lines had been idle over the weekend. Still, out of an abundance of caution, all staff and students at Cordova Lane Center were prohibited from drinking tap water until repairs on water lines were completed and subsequent tests were conducted.
What caused the problem at Cordova Lane?
Cordova Lane Center was built in phases over the course of several years. Some aging water lines were built using galvanized steel and, not unlike in an older home, could present a discoloration or higher level of metals when the water is not turned on regularly.
Is the problem fixed at Cordova Lane?
Post-repair test results show no signs of any elevated metals in the water, including lead, in classrooms being used by students. After consulting with county health and environmental safety officials, we believe our site’s tap water is safe to resume drinking in those rooms. Important note: As communicated to Cordova Lane staff previously, it has been and remains safe for students and staff to use the restroom and wash their hands. Metals cannot enter the bloodstream through contact with skin. Note: Water access has been shut off in Room 18, which is currently used for storage and is not used for instruction or programs, after positive tests for lead. Water will not be turned back on to that room until further remediation and testing can take place.