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Illinois lawmakers pass bill to require lead testing of drinking water in elementary schools

Jan. 11, 2017
Governor is expected to sign the legislation.

Elementary schools in Illinois would be required to test for lead in drinking water, under a bill approved by the state's General Assembly. The governor has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the bill calls for school districts to collect and analyze water samples from drinking fountains and kitchen sinks in schools that serve pre-kindergarten through fifth graders in buildings that were built before Jan 1, 2000.

It also asks the state Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Health to create rules to ensure children in licensed day care facilities are protected from lead in water. And it asks the water service companies to identify what pipes tested positive for lead and create an inventory system.

They must also notify residents about construction on water systems so they can take steps to flush out their water systems to prevent ingesting lead.

Last year, all 11,969 water fixtures at 526 Chicago Public Schools were tested, including drinking fountains, office sinks and kitchen sinks. Of those, 366 fixtures reported lead levels in water above the “actionable level,” the school district says.

The district subsequently tested the drinking water for lead at every school, prioritizing schools built before 1986 and ones with a pre-kindergarten program.

Chicago Schools CEO Forrest Claypool says the district’s program already exceeds the state’s proposed requirements. Chicago has spent $1.9 million to date and expects to spend $2.3 million by the time lead remediation work is completed.

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