New Law to Get Lead Out of School Drinking Water

New law to require testing of many Illinois school buildings for lead in tap water. - The poisonous substance could be in water anywhere in a school building or day care center that serves students aged fifth-grade-or-younger, including water fountains installed in school corridors. SB 550 would create a statewide system for all school systems, other than Chicago, to test the water of each school building. The Chicago Public School system says they have tested their schools already. Other school systems that have already tested their water would also be exempted from this state mandate and lead testing results would have to be made public. 

Studies show that Illinois has one of the largest number of lead service lines in the United States. A lead-in-water scandal in Flint, Michigan has earned substantial news coverage throughout the Midwest. Both Illinois and Michigan underwent fast economic development and boom conditions in the first three-quarters of the 20th century. During this period lead pipes and fittings were standard building supplies in building projects of all sorts, including school buildings.

The cost of testing, which would be borne by school districts, would be from $500 to $5,000 per school building. 2,500 elementary schools and 11,000 licensed day care centers and homes would be covered by the legislation. SB 550 was approved by the House by a bipartisan vote of 108-1-1. The bill was approved by the House on Monday, January 9, and was sent to the Governor by the Senate on Tuesday, January 10.

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