Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Testing has determined that the water is safe to drink at five Los Angeles Unified School District campuses in South Los Angeles, where students and school officials recently reported discolored water, Department of Water and Power officials said Tuesday.

Students and staff on April 28 discovered discolored water in the restrooms and a nurse’s office at Compton, Flournoy, Grape Street, Florence Griffith Joyner and 96th Street elementary schools.

Testing of samples on April 28 found “slight discoloration” of the water at “interior sampling” sites of two of the schools, but the water “had cleared up” by May 10 when another round of sampling was done, said Joe Ramallo of the DWP.

“The supply lines to both schools were clear at both testing times,” Ramallo said.

Amanda Parsons of the DWP emphasized that following both tests, the water at all five schools has “continued to meet health standards and remains safe to drink.”

LAUSD officials said the schools switched briefly to using bottled water, but went back when early tests showed the water quality met health and safety standards.

After the first results came back saying the sampled water was safe to drink, there have been no more reports of discolored water, LAUSD officials told City News Service.

Robert Laughton, director of LAUSD’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, said the schools only distributed bottled water on April 28 and 29 — the first two days.

Grape Street Elementary School also distributed bottled water for one day last week, but only as a precaution amid media coverage of the issue, Laughton said. The school went back to its regular water source after the DWP’s second round of testing last week found that the water was safe, he said.

Compton Elementary School shut off its drinking water fountains on the morning of April 28, when the principal confirmed students’ reports that “yellow” water was running in the school’s toilets, according to Elvia Cano of the LAUSD. She said students were told to use hand sanitizer, instead of the water from the faucet, to clean their hands.

Yellow water was also found in the toilets of Florence Griffith Joyner, 96th and Flournoy elementary schools, while the murky water was discovered in the nurse’s office at Grape Street Elementary School.

The DWP has also been conducting daily tests of water quality in the Watts area to address reports by residents in recent months of discolored water at their homes.

Tim Watkins, a Watts area activist, displayed bottles of brown-colored water at a Los Angeles City Council meeting last week, saying they were provided by residents who said the samples came from their taps.

DWP officials said their testing of the water quality in Watts has so far found the water to be safe. According to Parsons, the utility has been conducting daily tests at two sites since Wednesday, and the results show “the water continues to meet health standards.”

Parsons told City News Service, “It is important to note that this water is not unsafe to drink.”

The utility is also in the middle of flushing out the area’s pipes to remove the sediment they believe has been causing the discoloration. The process is expected to last more than a month.

DWP officials also said they do not know if the water sampled thus far in the general Watts area is discolored. Ramallo said they are waiting for more information on whether “discoloration was observed.”

Watkins, who leads the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, said assurances by DWP officials that the water meets safety standards is difficult to accept for residents and utility customers.

“If the water is coming out the wrong color, we shouldn’t be told that it’s OK to drink,” Watkins said.

Watkins added that “the agency may be doing what it can to address the problem, but I think we’re all wrong if all we care about is clearing DWP’s role in this.”

“We should all be concerned about what’s coming out of the tap, if it’s clear and if it’s actually drinkable,” he said.

It is possible the discolored water could be due to pipes within the homes, in which case the responsibility would be on landlords.

“DWP deserves to defend itself … and I’m not saying it’s their fault,” something still needs to be done, Watkins said.

“We’re kind of stuck in a defense mode when we should be aggressive when we look at what is coming out of people’s taps,” he said.

— Wire reports 

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