Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series regarding area school districts preparing for possible lead testing, as mandated immediately by a new state law.
HARRISBURG – A new state law requires Illinois school districts to test drinking water sources for lead, and Harrisburg's Unit 3 school district plans to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law, its superintendent says.
Superintendent Mike Gauch said the district is still analyzing details of the brand-new law, but he anticipates testing all of the district's drinking water sources. The new law, signed Monday Jan. 16 by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and effective immediately, requires schools with students up to grade 5 perform a one-time lead test. Results must be made aware to parents or guardians.
Gauch said companies already have been contacting the district about testing.
"I've already fielded several e-mails today from companies offering to come in and do testing, if you can believe that," Gauch said.
Schools and facilities are responsible for paying for the cost of the testing, and Gauch said the district is exploring what those costs may be.
He said he and district maintenance supervisor Tony Chrisman have plans to test all the district's schools, even though the law requires only up to grade 5, unless costs are much higher than anticipated.
"We, of course, are going to follow the law, but we're going to do it the most fiscally responsible way we can as well," he said.
The law follows the Flint, Mich.water crisis, in which citizens had to repeatedly complain to officials and have independent scientists conduct water quality samples before government officials would agree that lead contamination in the water supply exceeded safe levels.
Lead solder was used in cast iron water mains years ago, and lead pipes were used for water service lines in many homes. Lead pipes were banned in 1986. Lead is known to cause or contribute to many health problems. Children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning.