(Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli via Unsplash)

Two Oakland high schools sit atop land that is contaminated with lead, according to Oakland Unified School District officials.

The “elevated lead levels” were discovered under pavement on the campuses of Ralph J. Bunche Academy in West Oakland and Street Academy in North Oakland after crews took soil samples in preparation for planned landscape improvements.

Larry Brooks, director of Alameda County’s Healthy Homes Department, which runs programs aimed at preventing lead poisoning in children, said in a OUSD news release that “the soil does not present a current health risk because it is under the blacktop, therefore the lead is entirely contained.”

Multiple soil samples were taken from both schools and one sample from each campus came back with elevated levels of lead, according to the school district.

The holes that were dug in order to take the samples have been capped with concrete, district officials said.

“Health and lead experts from Alameda County say environmental lead is ubiquitous across the Bay Area, much of it the product of lead-based paint and pollution that includes leaded gasoline before it was banned,” district officials said in a news release.

The landscape improvements were part or the district’s Green School Yards initiative, a partnership between the district and the Trust for Public Land that was formed to create green spaces at five Oakland schools.

The district still intends to find a way to provide both schools with new landscaping.

Kiley Russell, Bay City News

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.