Water testing for lead in schools and municipalities have made national and local headlines in the past couple years. In January 2017, Public Act 099-0922 was passed, requiring that by the year’s end (Dec. 2017) Illinois school districts complete water testing in all District sites built before Jan. 1, 1987. The Illinois law only applies to buildings where pre-K through fifth grade students attend school. In Kankakee School District 111, 9 buildings met the required testing criteria. At Kankakee School District 111 all 11 buildings were tested.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets what’s called an “action level” for lead in water at 15 parts per billion (ppb), however, the Illinois law establishes more stringent guidelines, requiring districts to take action and notify parents if lead is found in water when levels are at or above 5 ppb. Please note that neither the 15 ppb, nor the state’s threshold is a health-based standard. Both the EPA and state levels were set to trigger systems to take action and mitigate the levels of lead but are not accompanied by any requirements regarding medical tests or healthcare.
Kankakee School District 111 complied with the new Illinois law and contracted with Professional Service Industries Inc., an industrial services company, to conduct testing. As noted, 9 buildings were identified as meeting the criteria for testing, under Public Act 099-0922. Kankakee School District 111 decided to test all 11 buildings, and can be summarized as follows:
Professional Service Industries Inc. collected more than 1012 water samples from 506 water sources at the 11 buildings.
A summary of the results, by site, can be found below:
The District will follow, and in many cases, go above and beyond the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidelines to address the results. The District has and will continue to take the following action:
- All in-classroom drinking fountains in all buildings that tested above IDPH guidelines, will be shut off by September 14, 2017.
- Drinking fountains outside classrooms that tested above IDPH guidelines will be shut off by September 15, 2017. Then will be replaced or repaired as soon as supplies and equipment is available. On a temporary basis, commercial bottled water stations will be available at each of the drinking fountains that have been shut off outside of classrooms until repairs or replacements have been completed.
- All sinks in bathrooms, nurses’ offices, kitchenettes, cafeterias, labs, and any other locations will be labeled with a bilingual sign reading “Hand Washing Only,’’ upon the start of the school year.
- Additionally, according to the U.S. EPA, washing hands, and even bathing or showering, should be safe for children and adults, even if the water contains lead over the U.S. EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.
Notification to Families
Kankakee School District 111 has sent notifications through social media, District email notification system (Skyward), local media, and District website.
The District’s website offers the results for each school tested, as well as frequently asked questions, District, state and federal resources.
Please be assured we will take all action necessary to protect student health and we will continue to update our staff, families, and community as new information becomes available.
More resources are provided at the end of this document and include this public health statement as well as the following statement from the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH): While any source of lead exposure to children is concerning, the majority of child lead poisoning is attributed to lead paint and lead in soil. Even so, IDPH is addressing water as a source of lead in schools by requiring Illinois' school districts to test for lead in water and report findings to parents and guardians. IDPH has established a low threshold for reporting to allow parents to be informed about risks their children may be exposed to at school. Risk will vary however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. A blood test is the only way to find out if your child has a high lead level. Most children with high levels of lead in their blood have no symptoms. Your child's health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
For additional resources, please visit the following websites: