San Diego City wins appeal in state lead testing mandate case
The city of San Diego has won an appeal in its suit challenging a state mandate that required local water districts to pay for mandatory lead testing at schools, the San Diego City Attorney's Office said Wednesday.
The ruling issued Friday finds that either the state's Commission on State Mandates must reimburse San Diego for water testing or the city can impose fees, charges or assessments to cover testing costs.
According to the City Attorney's Office, the case stems from a 2017 mandate from California's Water Resources Control Board, which required that water sources at K-12 schools be tested for the presence of lead.
When the Commission on State Mandates decided water districts should pay for the testing costs, local officials said that left the city to pay more than $500,000 out of its general fund to test at San Diego schools.
The city then sued the state, arguing it violated a 1979 law requiring California to reimburse local agencies for mandatory compliance with state programs. While a lower court ruled in the commission's favor, a three-justice panel of California's Third Appellate District in Sacramento reversed that decision last week.
"Had courts allowed this violation of state law, it would have exposed local tax dollars to Sacramento priorities instead of our city's needs," San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott said in a statement.
The ruling applies to all water testing that occurred since the 2017 mandate.