Blog  /  February 2017  /  Lead Reduction in Drinking Water

Blog Post Teaser

Following months of discussions, debates and negotiations, on January 16, 2017, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Public Act 00-0922 (Senate Bill 0550) into law.  Senate Bill 0550 establishes protocols for lead testing requirements and protocols for all water sources used for cooking and drinking within some schools and day care facilities as well as requirements for water providers to compile a lead materials inventory and provide notification  prior to water distribution work.

The level of effort provided by the IL Section American Water Works Associations (ISAWWA), Water Utility Council (WUC) on behalf of member utilities in Illinois is unprecedented and resulted in a significant shift of financial responsibility from Illinois utilities to school districts throughout the State. In addition, the WUC was able to negotiate what started out to be a very unreasonable and impossible regulation to implement to a bill that now is scientifically and technically sound and has true value to the children of the State of Illinois as we all work to get the lead out.

From the beginning, the WUC agreed improvements must be made to the current Federal Lead and Copper Rule, and a change in the culture of the water industry as it relates to our responsibility for the public health of our customers was necessary. Through all of our efforts, we had public health in mind.

 

Highlights of the Act

Water Providers Responsibilities

The Act requires water providers to develop and maintain a Lead Service Line Inventory. The inventory must identify the total number of service lines in the water system and the number of known lead service lines, including those on private property. This list is to be submitted to IEPA by April 15, 2018 (in either electronic or written form). Each year, until all lead service lines are removed, water providers must update the inventory, clearly identifying the number of lead service lines added from the previous year. It is important to note, water providers are NOT required to unearth water service for the purposes of identification.

Also included in the Act are mandatory notification requirements when working in areas of known or suspected lead service lines (including meter replacement activities) and options for the use of State Revolving Funds (SRF) and authorization to adjust water rates for compliance of Senate Bill 0550 as well as a voluntary option to assist in the funding of lead sampling in schools.

 

Schools Responsibilities

The Act requires schools to test all water sources used for cooking and drinking in all schools where Kindergarten  thru 5th graders are present that were built before January 1, 2000.

In general, schools are required to take two samples at each fixture, the first being a first draw sample following an 8-18 hour stagnation period and the second to be 30 seconds (flushed sample) later. Should a sample or samples exceed 5 ppb, schools must notify parents of students of the location and source exceeding 5 ppb, ways to mitigate risk and the hazards of lead in drinking water.

There are specific deadlines included in the Act for schools, funding options and exceptions which are not being discussed here.

 

Day Care Facility Responsibilities

On or before January 1, 2018 DCFS shall adopt rules that detail procedures and standards in assessing levels of lead in water in licensed day care centers, day care homes and group day care homes constructed prior to January 1, 2000 that serves children under 6. The adoption of these rules will become part of the license renewal application process.

 

Summary Statement

The Center for Disease Control states “no safe blood level has been identified and all sources of lead exposure for children should be controlled or eliminated”. They have further indicated children are particularly vulnerable during their early formative years which is why this Act has targeted those schools Kindergarten thru 5th grade and day care centers.

Although this Act places most of the burden for compliance on the backs of schools throughout Illinois, we, as water professionals have a clear responsibility to provide the technical assistance necessary to ensure the sampling process is managed appropriately.

The Illinois Section AWWA strongly suggests water providers reach out to their school superintendents to offer technical expertise and assist them through this process. This program will likely be managed by local school building superintendents and custodians who have virtually no experience in collecting water samples, maintaining chain of custody, and understanding the resulting data. We are the experts and we need to step up to ensure the children of our communities are protected from the dangers of lead exposure.

The ISAWWA also suggest water providers take advantage of this opportunity to help schools develop water management plans within the schools to assure fresh water is maintained, especially during times when facilities are closed for extended periods (i.e. spring break, winter break, summer recess, long weekends etc...)

During the coming months, the ISAWWA will be offering seminars and webinars to assist members with understanding and complying with this Act. Additional information and specific “fact sheets” can be found at our website at ISAWWA.org.