At close to 300 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses, staff still run every working water fountain for 30 seconds each morning to get any lead out of the system. The district estimates it will take until Dec. 2018 to repair the fountains at these remaining schools.
That's behind the schedule the district plotted last year. In March 2016, officials estimated the work would be completed by now, ending a nearly 30-year requirement that lead be flushed from water fountains daily.
"At the start of this effort, the District was quite optimistic when forecasting the completion timeframe," LAUSD spokeswoman Elvia Perez Cano said in a statement. "However, as we delved into the work, the District is now able to assess the progress and provide a more realistic completion date."
There is no safe level of lead. Its effects on children are particularly harmful; it can damage their nervous systems, slowing growth and development. It's also linked to learning and behavior problems in youngsters, as well as difficulties with hearing and speech.
In 2008, LAUSD tested more than 40,000 fountains to determine which ones had lead in amounts above its action level of 15 parts per billion. All drinking water sources that were above that threshold after they'd been flushed once were immediately removed from service during the 2008-09 school year, according to the district.
The fountains that were below that action level after one flush were put on the list to be fixed or taken out of service later. Meanwhile, out of an abundance of caution, officials required every school to continue flushing all of the remaining fountains every day.
The LAUSD school board approved a $19.8 million bond to finance the cleanup in 2015. Since then, LAUSD says it's taken more than 800 fountains out of service and repaired nearly 400 more. It says it's completed this work at 342 campuses; 235 campuses didn't require any fixes.
Overall, the district says 577 of its 860 campuses are no longer flushing their fountains daily; it says 283 campuses are still adhering to this requirement.
The district believes the bond will be sufficient to complete the work, eventually ending the flushing requirement across all LAUSD schools, according to Perez Cano.