All Illinois schools built prior to Jan. 1, 1987, have only a few months left to complete testing for lead contamination in their water and create plans for remediation, if necessary.
The Illinois Legislature passed the Lead Hazard Act in January. It requires schools to test all of their facilities where water could be ingested (e.g. drinking fountains, kitchen sinks, or sinks in the teachers’ lounge). Schools built between Jan. 2, 1987, and Jan. 1, 2000, have until the end of 2018 to complete their lead testing. (For more information on the requirements, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health, or IDPH, website)
- Any facility or portion thereof that was constructed on or before January 1, 2000 and may be occupied by more than 10 children or students, pre-kindergarten through grade 5, under the control of (a) a school district or (b) a public, private, charter, or nonpublic day or residential educational institution. See the IL Public Act 099-0922.
- Sampling and analysis required under this Section shall be completed by the following applicable deadlines: for school buildings constructed prior to January 1, 1987, by December 31, 2017; and for school buildings constructed between January 2, 1987 and January 1, 2000, by December 31, 2018.
Steps to take
- The first step is to identify any source of potable water that should be tested. Test any fixture, tap, faucet, drinking fountain or wash basin where the water might be ingested or used in food preparation, especially those that are rarely used or connected to a long run of pipe. Mop sinks or wash basins used by janitorial staff would not need to be tested.
- The next step would be to test the water. Schools can collect the samples themselves, or contact a third-party contractor. Samples will be sent to an environmental lab for testing.
- After receiving test results, determine what level of hazard exists and develop a response plan.
Water fixtures that test in excess of five ppm for lead contamination must immediately be taken offline and made inaccessible to students. Your response plan should depend on how much lead is present in the water and the source of the lead.
The steps taken to meet the requirements of the Lead Hazard Act can be completed by your facilities staff or with the assistance of an architecture and engineering firm. A qualified firm can:
- Identify what sources of water need to be tested
- Point out potential problem areas
- Test the water
- Develop a response plan to lead testing results
- Assist with filing Health/Life/Safety amendment
Schools can use Health/Life/Safety Funds
The Lead Hazard Act is an unfunded mandate. However, the law specifically states that schools can use their Health/Life/Safety funds to pay for testing, so no pre-approval is needed to use the funds. Schools can also use Health/Life/Safety funds to pay for any necessary remediation work. This will need to be approved by the regional superintendent.