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Illinois Enacts Law Requiring Schools to Lead Test Their Water Supply

K-12 Education Publications

Earlier this week, Governor Bruce Rauner signed a new law requiring Illinois elementary schools and daycare centers to test their drinking water sources for lead contamination and notify parents of the results of that testing. Public Act 99-992 comes in response to the lead contamination crises in cities across the country and recent investigations revealing that elevated lead levels in drinking water are more common than previously thought.

Under the new law, all Illinois elementary schools built before 1987 will have to complete testing by December 31, 2017. Facilities constructed between 1987 and 2000 have until the end of 2018 to complete their tests. All daycare centers constructed before 2000 that serve children under six years old will also have to conduct tests, but the date of completion for those tests will not be set until the Department of Child and Family Services releases regulations on January 1, 2018. The law provides very detailed instructions on how to perform the water tests, including the proper method of collecting samples and sending those samples to an Illinois EPA-accredited testing laboratory.

The new law provides that if any of the samples taken in a school building exceed 5 parts per billion, the school district must promptly provide an individual notification of the sampling results, via written or electronic communication, to the parents of all enrolled students. The notification must specify the sampling location within the school building where the test sample was taken and direct parents to the U.S. EPA’s website for information about lead in drinking water. If any of the samples taken at the school are at or below 5 parts per billion, a notification can be made through posting the results on the school’s website. Note that the law’s requirements do not apply to schools that only serve students in 6th grade and higher.

One critical provision of the new law ensures that testing for lead in buildings can be paid for with Health/Life Safety funds or with funds transferred from the Tort Fund to the Operations and Maintenance Fund, two sources of funds previously not available for such projects. Specifically, the law permits those funds to be used for “required safety inspections,” including sampling for lead in drinking water in schools as well as for repair and mitigation due to lead levels in the drinking water supply.

At the federal level, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has introduced a bill that would make federal grants available to states to assist local educational agencies in voluntary testing for lead contamination in drinking water at schools and childcare programs. We are happy to provide additional resources or guidance on complying with this law.