Bill could tap funds for water testing


ILLINOIS — Schools and daycare centers could soon be required to test for lead in drinking water. The proposal was taken up as lawmakers returned to the Statehouse Monday.

Months ago, the bill got some backlash for not providing funds to help facilities pay for the tests. But, after months of ongoing discussions, schools will be allowed to dip into other funds to help cover the costs.

Daycare centers will also get help through state grants. After watching the aftermath of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, some lawmakers say more needs to be done to prevent these types of things from happening here.

That’s why a bill will help schools and daycare centers be better equipped to reduce the amount of lead young children are exposed to.

“The concept that we’re trying to get in this bill is to protect children from lead poisoning. It’s a phenomenal concept we should have thought of years ago.”

Schools built before 2000 attended by pre-K through 5th grade students will have to test for lead in all their drinking water sources. It includes drinking fountains and water used in cafeterias to cook food.

Jennifer Walling, from the Environmental Council, says tests can be expensive, but it depends on how big the problem is.

“We have looked at other states and they have spent between $500 – $5,000 per school. It really depends on how many water sources and how large the school is.”

The Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance says it’s remaining neutral on the bill. Leaders say they have concerns if every school has the ability to use funds from elsewhere to pay for lead services.

Schools will be allowed to use money from their Life Safety Health Funds or a water supplier can volunteer to test for lead levels.

Representative Carol Ammons (D) says a saving a life is worth a costly measure.

“Securing some of the Tort funds to mediate problems in the school. I don’t see any problem among our school superintendents to make sure our children are not getting lead poisoned water.”

Ammons says she does worry about some daycare centers, but they will have opportunities to apply for help.

“There maybe some costs and some provisions for some smaller daycares, but I think the Department of Public Health will have some grant opportunities to help reduce some of those.”

The Environmental Council says testing for lead can be inexpensive. It’s when problems arise and finding solutions which can be costly. A typical test for lead in one water sample ranges from $10 – $30.

Another part of the bill allows for parents to be notified of lead levels in their child’s facility. Previously, parents were not told if there was lead contamination in a building’s drinking water.

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