Skip to main content

KPBS Radio is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in temporary signal outages.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Tokyo Olympics

City Heights Youth Aims To Raise Awareness Of Drinking Water Quality

12-year-old Sully Jenkins puts up a flyer in City Heights, highlighting the i...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: 12-year-old Sully Jenkins puts up a flyer in City Heights, highlighting the impact of unsafe drinking water on low-income communities. Photographed on June 21st, 2021.

Sully Jenkins remembers when his elementary school began handing out bottled water, after it was determined the tap water was no longer safe to drink.

“For the longest time, we had to drink from water bottles, like half the year, we couldn’t drink from the fountains, just because it was really unsafe, the amount of lead,” he said.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler

So when it came time to do group projects this year, the 12-year-old looked forward to looking into the issue of drinking water. And when he looked closely, he didn’t like what he saw. Specifically, how common lead is in school drinking water.

RELATED: New City Office Aims To Help San Diego Youth During Difficult Times

“I was surprised at first, but I realized as I searched, some other places, had the same problem,” he said. “My other school had the same problem. So as I searched, I realized after not that long, that this isn’t good, but it’s normal. It shouldn’t be, but it’s normal.“

So Jenkins created a Youtube video and a petition, to raise awareness of what’s happening with drinking water in low-income communities, and the danger that contaminants like lead present.

Jenkins has already shown the video to the San Diego City Council and has taken his research to the streets, tacking up flyers across the neighborhood to raise awareness.

He says the solution is in replacing the infrastructure in surrounding schools, to get rid of corroding pipes and the lack of filtration.

“We need different plumbing, materials like corrode contains lots of lead in them. There’s a lot of old pipes who have rusted or their soldering is rusted,” he said.

Jenkins said he wants to continue his activism and research in the coming years, as he continues to push for cleaner water in City Heights.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.