ORINDA (KPIX 5) — Some students from McClymonds High School in Oakland on Wednesday took a tour of East Bay MUD’s water treatment plant in Orinda that aimed to educate the students and ease possible fears about their school’s water supply.
The district closed McClymonds last week after the carcinogenic chemical compound trichloroethylene was found in the campus’ groundwater with the concern that it could have evaporated into its air. The school’s drinking water was unaffected, according to district officials.
Less than half of the students who were supposed to attend the field trip showed up Wednesday morning as chemical testing at their high school continued this week.
“This is disruptive. This is not what they want, this is not what our staff wants,” said Oakland Unified School District spokesperson John Sasaki. Nobody wants this situation, but this is what we have to do.” The continued closure of McClymonds provided an opportunity for the schools 9th graders to tour East Bay MUD’s water treatment plant in Orinda.
“We really want our kids to walk away today feeling confident that they are able to take a drink from the sink,” said EBMUD spokesperson Kathryn Horn.
The discovery of trichloroethylene or TCE in the school’s groundwater lead to concern over whether the toxin was seeping into the air and contaminating it, which is why the school is closed until further notice. More extensive testing was done this week, but the preliminary results were promising. Tests showed that the air around McClymonds contained zero percent TCE.
“We would never have closed the school if we didn’t have this concern,” said Sasaki. “And likewise, we wouldn’t reopen unless we know that it’s safe.”
Groundwater is not used for anything on campus, not even sprinklers. East Bay MUD says the groundwater is not part of their supply and confirms the drinking water in West Oakland remains safe to drink.
The district doesn’t have a timeline as to when students will be allowed back into their school. Officials are hoping they get the all clear within the next couple of weeks.