Education

McHenry County schools respond to lead water testing mandate

WOODSTOCK – WoodstockSchool District 200 tested its water sources in the fall to make sure there was no lead contamination.

Because of a new law, Superintendent Michael Moan said, they will once again test in the spring.

A new law enacted by the state earlier this year requires certain Illinois schools to test drinking water sources for lead and notify parents of the results. According to the law, elementary schools and day care centers built before 1987 must have testing completed by the end of this year, while schools built from 1987 to 2000 have until Dec. 31, 2018.

Several McHenry County schools are aware of this law and plan to meet those requirements.

Tim Mahaffy, Fox River Grove District 3 superintendent, said they are looking at quotes, and he plans to get both District 3 schools tested over the summer.

“We don’t think we’re going to have an issue because we have very few, if any, old ones,” Mahaffy said. “Over the years, we’ve been replacing them with brand-new ones as far as water fountains and drinking sources.”

Mahaffy said he’s not opposed to the unfunded mandate, and it’s up to the district to make sure whoever they choose to test the water follows the new law’s guidelines.

“We’ll find out if it is necessary for our district,” Mahaffy said. “If we come back and have to replace some things, then I’ll be glad we spent the money to do it.”

In Crystal Lake, Dave Schuh, Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 director of operations, said all the district schools started testing in December before the law being passed.

“We wanted to be proactive and make sure we’re doing things right to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff,” Schuh said.

Schuh said the district has spent $25,000 on water testing since last December, which doesn’t include replacing sinks and faucets if those need to be replaced down the line.

“We’re watching the legislation right now to make sure we’re compliant, so we’re going to monitor the new legislature and make sure we comply before the deadlines are up,” Schuh said.

“We strongly believe this new legislature serves to benefit our students and staff, which is great, but at the same time it does place a financial burden on us and other school districts since it is an unfunded mandate,” Schuh added.

Harvard Community Unit School District 50 is in the process of doing their testing and collecting samples. Facilities management director Steve Miller said they are getting their water tested at McHenry Analytical Water Laboratory.

“We’ll do whatever we can to keep our children safe,” Miller said.

For Marengo Union Elementary School District 156, Superintendent Lea Damisch said they are aware of the law and have not made any final decisions as to which vendor will test the water.

“We have been looking at a couple of different options, one of which is through our Cooperative Liability Insurance. We have been receiving a lot of sales calls and vendor letters,” Damisch said.

Damisch estimates the sampling cost will be about $45 to $50 per water source, which there are about 25 that need to be checked. She said regardless of the cost, the district will test the water at some point and report the results to comply with the parameters of the rules.

Some schools that aren’t affected by this law are still testing for lead. Dan Armstrong, director of communications and public engagement for Huntley Community School District 158, said the district’s buildings that are pre-K through fifth grade were built after 2000, and therefore, aren’t required by the law to test. Regardless, Armstrong said the district continues to proactively samples its water quality from each of its schools.

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