District leaders test water for lead

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PAXTON — This isn’t the first time PBL district leaders have tested the school’s water for lead. But it is the first time they’ve been required to do it. The law went into effect in January. District leaders across the state are now supposed to check their grade school water supplies to see if they could be contaminated.

The superintendent at Paxton-Buckley-Loda says they found a couple trouble spots and they already fixed those. But Cliff McClure says this could give school leaders in other areas issues in the future.

Safe water is a priority no matter where you are. PBL superintendent McClure says that includes his schools.

“At PBL, we want to assure our parents transparency and student and staff safety,” said McClure.

Clean water has been on people’s minds since the Flint water crisis started. Some samples there tested as high as 13,000 parts per billion of lead. The PBL district’s levels were way below that. At Clara Peterson Elementary School, two results were higher than 20 parts per billion. That was enough for them to take action.

“Those that were higher that were water sources that students could drink out of, we immediately took those out of service, so those are no longer in service,” said McClure. “Just took the worry out of that. For the age of our buildings, I was very pleased.”

Clara Peterson was built in the 1950’s.

Water department workers say they do their own tests every three years, but there’s no lead in the system that they’re aware off. McClure says that could mean issues with equipment.

“When you’re talking about the first draw, is more than likely the instrument you’re using, like it’s the spigot or the water fountain,” said McClure.

The district also tested the junior high and high school, even though that wasn’t required. Both came back clean. McClure says he’s concerned about what testing could mean for other districts in the state.

“In this time of diminishing resources, this is an unfunded mandate,” said McClure.

Each district is required to do this testing. If the results are higher than 5 parts per billion of lead, they’re supposed to tell parents and staff.

They took samples two ways. The first was after letting the water rest for eight hours. The second was after letting the water run for 30 seconds. The PBL district has been testing the water for lead since 2011. It cost them about $7,800 to do the test, but it could be different for other districts.

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