District 65 drinking water contains high levels of lead, tests find

Alane Lim, Reporter

Lead tests conducted by a testing agency have revealed that the drinking water at some Evanston/Skokie School District 65 schools contains potentially harmful levels of lead, the district announced in a news release.

School officials received test results conducted by environmental testing firm Stantec, who evaluated hundreds of drinking water sources at the 13 schools tested in November. At least one fixture in each of the schools contained lead levels over 5 parts per billion — the safe limit established by the Illinois Department of Health.

“Any fixtures that tested over the recommended level by IDPH (5 parts per billion) were immediately shut down and will remain off until resolved. It should be noted that the IDPH regulations are more strict than the US EPA regulations (15 ppb),” District 65 communications coordinator Melissa Messinger told The Daily in an email.

​Tested fixtures included classroom sinks, water fountains and bottle fillers, though classroom sinks were the most ​prevalent, she said.

The tests follow new regulations set by the IDPH; in January, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that would require all elementary schools and daycare centers to test water sources for lead.

School officials are working with the Evanston Health and Human Services Department to implement strategies for making the drinking water safe, Messinger said, including identifying, replacing and installing problem pipes and fixtures. Afterwards, the fixtures will be retested to ensure they meet the necessary guidelines, she said.

The district has notified staff and family about the testing results, she added. Individual results are posted to each school’s website.

The schools also aim to raise community awareness on the lead testing results, Messinger said.

“We have provided a number of online resources and will be hosting an information session in conjunction with the health department on Dec. 20,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this sto​​​​ry misstated the lead testing results of classroom fixtures.​ Classroom sinks were the most prevalent of the sources tested, not the most likely to be harmful.​ The Daily regrets the error.

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