On January 17, 2017, Senate Bill 550 took effect and added new lead testing requirements for school districts. This new amendment comes in response to several districts throughout Illinois and around the country finding lead in their schools’ drinking fountains. If exposed to even low amounts of lead, young children’s health may be in danger.  Accordingly, Section 35.5 of the Illinois Plumbing License Law now requires lead testing in school buildings that house students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. This applies to public school districts, nonpublic schools, and charters.  A school district is charged with testing “sources of potable water.”  “Sources of potable water” under the statute include tap, faucet, drinking fountain, wash basin that is in a classroom with students under first grade, and similar sources; however, bathroom sinks and wash basins used by janitorial staff are specifically excluded from this definition.

A school district must collect, at a minimum, a first-draw 250-milliliter sample of water, flush for 30 seconds and collect a second-draw 250-milliliter sample of water. This process must be followed for each potable water source unless multiple sources of potable water use the same drain. In that case, the above process is required for one source of potable water and only a first-draw 250-milliter sample is required from the remaining potable water sources.  A first-draw sample must be in the plumbing for at least 8 hours but no more than 18 hours without the flushing of the source. Once obtained, the samples should be submitted to a laboratory that is certified for the analysis of lead in drinking water in accordance with accreditation requirements developed by a national laboratory accreditation body and the results of the analysis must be submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health within 7 days.

If the sample is found to exceed 5 parts per billion, all parents with students enrolled in the school must be notified promptly of the sampling results. This notification, via written or electronic means, must identify the source of the sample and the website for the United States Environmental Protection Agency for information regarding lead in drinking water. If the sample is found to have less than 5 parts per billion, notification may be sent to the parents as indicated above or may be simply posted on the school’s website. The statute also allows schools that have performed lead testing between January 1, 2013 and January 17, 2017, to apply for a waiver of this requirement; however, to be eligible for the waiver, schools must have submitted the test results and corresponding material to the Illinois Department of Public Health by May 17, 2017.

The deadlines for sampling and analysis are as follows:

Year School Buildings Constructed Deadline for Sampling & Analysis
Prior to January 1, 1987: December 31, 2017
Between January 2, 1987 and January 1, 2000: December 31, 2018
After January 1, 2000: The Illinois Department of Public Health shall determine whether testing will need to be done on these school buildings by June 30, 2019.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is to post guidance on mitigating actions for lead in drinking water within 90 days of the effective date of Senate Bill 550. That guidance will be available at: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/lead-poisoning-prevention.