Steans’ drinking water safety plan aims to keep Ill. from suffering Flint’s fate
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) sponsored legislation that earned the Senate’s approval today and will require increased testing for lead in drinking water, especially in schools, and stepped-up efforts to identify and replace lead service lines in water systems. Informed by the tragedy in Flint, Michigan, the measure also brings Illinois law into line with federal lead limits and includes new rules to keep the public informed about potential risks in their drinking water.
“We know that exposure to lead can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities and many other significant health problems, and young children in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods are most at risk,” Steans said. “That’s unacceptable. By mandating rigorous testing of water systems and communicating openly with the public, we can prevent our cities and towns from becoming another Flint – a community where children were poisoned unawares.”
Senate Bill 550 requires water systems to complete an inventory of lead service lines used to distribute drinking water; the Department of Public Health must develop a program to identify lead hazards in schools statewide and to require their mitigation within a reasonable timeframe. Schools that serve preschool through fifth-grade students and were built before 1987 must take samples from their drinking water sources and have them tested for lead. If the level of lead in any water sample from a school is 15 parts per billion – the “action level” set in federal law – or higher, parents and guardians must be informed of the level and the associated risks. Finally, water systems must notify residents of any construction work likely to cause elevated lead levels in their tap water and inform them if their water supply has been tested and exceeds the action level.
“Galesburg, areas of Chicago and several other Illinois communities have identified lead levels in their drinking water that threaten our children’s health,” Steans said. “It’s very important to be proactive in meeting this threat head-on so schools and families are not blindsided as they were in Flint.”
The legislation now moves to the House.