The Carlsbad Unified School District says repairs have been completed to purge contaminated drinking water at Hope Elementary School, which may have been present in the school’s water system for several months.
In a statement on Monday, the district said that shortly after the school reopened in the fall, there were “sporadic reports” of water discoloration. In November, further complaints were filed about the color, taste and odor of the water, although tests did not indicate the water was unsafe, the district said.
Following further investigation, which concluded that no e. coli or other harmful bacteria were found in the water, the district shut off water to campus last Thursday after concluding that the school’s domestic water lines were crossed with irrigation lines from reclaimed water on campus.
According to the district, the cause of the cross-connection is still under investigation, although it said “it appears to have happened during construction based on the timing of the complaints and the ‘cross connection location’.
City crews have since flushed the system with highly chlorinated water, then flushed the chlorinated water with potable water. The filters of the school’s drinking water dispensers were also replaced.
After the repairs, the city conducted further water tests, which were reviewed by San Diego County before the school reopened on Monday, according to the district. No similar reports have been reported from other district schools, but the city is conducting cross-connect testing at Kelly and Magnolia Elementary Schools as a precaution.
In a Frequently Asked Questions document released for parents, the district says reclaimed water contains “higher levels of salts, dissolved minerals, nitrogen and phosphorus than drinking water,” but pointed out that ‘She’s treated and sanitized, following EPA guidelines to keep biological contaminants “to a safe minimum.”
The FAQ states that, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, parents of children with symptoms of stomach or intestinal illness should seek medical attention.
The district says when it received initial complaints, construction crews said the issue was cosmetic only and would be fixed by flushing the system. He also pointed out that the test results did not initially indicate anything was wrong, although later test results indicated increased levels of chlorine, water hardness and alkaline content.
“We are sincerely sorry this was not reported sooner,” the district said in its statement. “We relied on reports and information from our contractors, building managers and bond program that the water had been tested for safety, the problem was cosmetic and it would resolve. We had not anticipated the cause of the problem, and we regret not having discovered it sooner. Once we were alerted to the cause, we took all necessary steps to prevent further exposure; inform our community; and solve the problem.
–City News Service, Inc.