Faucet at Valencia Valley blamed for high lead content levels in tap water

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Out of more than 60 local schools tested for drinking water across the Santa Clarita Valley, only one school revealed lead content levels that required corrective action, which, in this case, was as simple as replacing the problem faucet.

The faucet was identified by a school board official as “rarely used” and in the school’s kitchen.

Drinking water at Valencia Valley Elementary School, on Carrizo Drive, in Valencia, was found in December to have a level of lead concentration in its tap water above the state-accepted level, members of the SCV Water agency’s board of directors learned at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

Elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children, according to the agency.

Once detected, a team of water quality specialists at the SCV Water Agency immediately notified the Newhall School District.

“Only one sample, in one school, had results above the action level for lead,”  Ryan Bye, regulatory compliance supervisor for the agency’s Water Quality section, said Wednesday. “This was at Valencia Valley Elementary School.”

Action level

An “action level” is the level set by state water officials which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements which a water system must follow.

The action level for lead is 15 parts of lead for every billion parts of water.

Bye’s water quality team took five tap water samples at the school in early December.

“Out of the five samples collected, one sample exceeded the action level for lead at 190 parts per billion — the rest had undetectable levels of lead,” Bye said Wednesday.

A “nondetectable level” means no amounts of lead were found.

The first time the water quality team sampled tap water at Valencia Valley was on Nov. 27, 2018.

“Upon learning of the results on Dec. 6, 2018, we immediately notified Newhall School District,” Bye said.

“(District staff) removed the faucet from service until we could confirm the results,” he said, noting that a second confirmation sample was collected on Dec. 11, 2018.

When they learned that the results of the second test were still in excess of the action level, Bye and his team “collaborated with Newhall School District to find the source of the problem.”

“A decision was made to try (to change) out the faucet and to retest after the work was done. Once the faucet was changed out, we collected the final sample on Jan. 8, 2019.”

Problem faucet

The faucet, they learned, was the cause of their concern.

Deo Persaud, assistant superintendent of business services for the Newhall School District, described the problem faucet Wednesday as being one that was “rarely used” in the kitchen area of Valencia Valley.

“We have since replaced the fixture,” he said, noting the school is “one of the older ones” in the district.

“There was some modernization done at the school a few years ago,” he noted.

Once the faucet was replaced, tests done on the water revealed a lead content well below what is required to be reported at all.

“From the time of the first sample results, until we received the final results, the faucet remained out of service,” Bye said.

News of the lead content results were revealed Tuesday night at a regular board meeting of the SCV Water Agency board of directors.

Mandatory tests

Every couple of years, water at public schools in California must be tested for lead content, according to a requirement of the state’s Division of Drinking Water.

The Water Quality team at SCV Water collected 292 samples in 61 schools across its service area between 2017-19. 

“We worked closely with school district administrators and their staff to develop sampling plans and to coordinate monitoring,” Bye said.

“There were a few schools which had low-level detections above the detection limit for reporting,” he said.

The state has a specific process for submitting tested water results and for final reports to the schools.  

Test results online

All monitoring results are turned over to the Division of Drinking Water and provided to the school districts. The DDW has a public website that displays results from this sampling statewide.  

“There have been some delays in timing between receiving sampling results and DDW getting their website updated due to technical issues,” Bye said Wednesday. “But all of the results from SCV Water’s testing are on this map except for those from Newhall School District.”

Persaud said he was waiting to see the water results posted online by the state.

“DDW is working with the laboratory to resolve the final technical issues to get this data uploaded to the map presently,” Bye said.

SCV Water is required to submit paperwork to DDW outlining the detection, remediation process and the conclusion of results below the detection limit for reporting. 

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