May 19, 2008
Dangerously high amounts of lead – more than seven times greater than the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency – were found in the water fountains of a Los Angeles elementary school. Parents made the discovery.
Two years ago, when teachers told students not to drink from the fountains, worried parents began to demand answers. Instead, they got the runaround. Finally, a parent who works for the L.A. Metropolitan Water District tested the water and found the lead.
Caught out, district officials tried to blame school workers, saying that custodians and teachers were told to flush the fountains for 30 seconds every morning to get rid of the lead. In other words, officials knew about this grave hazard to children’s health. They just hid it.
The hazard goes back much longer than two years. In 1993, old water pipes containing high amounts of lead were banned – but the California legislature exempted the existing pipes in schools and other buildings. It’s now 15 years later, pipes haven’t been replaced and dozens of schools in Los Angeles are involved.
If it hadn’t been for the parents deciding they had to take things into their own hands, officials might well have hidden this outrage for another 15 years.