April 19, 2024
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News - DeKalb County

Water tests in DeKalb, Sycamore schools show high levels of lead

DeKALB – Testing of water at a dozen school buildings in DeKalb and Sycamore has revealed elevated levels of lead, according to reports from District 428 and District 427.

DeKalb schools where lead content from sinks was found to exceed standards established by the Illinois Department of Public Health were:
• Clinton-Rosette Middle School
• Huntley Middle School, which houses the Early Learning and Development Center
• Tyler Elementary
• Founders Elementary
• Jefferson Elementary
• Littlejohn Elementary
• Lincoln Elementary
• Malta Elementary
DeKalb schools where lead content from sinks was found to exceed standards established by the Illinois Department of Public Health were:
• Clinton-Rosette Middle School
• Huntley Middle School, which houses the Early Learning and Development Center
• Tyler Elementary
• Founders Elementary
• Jefferson Elementary
• Littlejohn Elementary
• Lincoln Elementary
• Malta Elementary
In Sycamore, schools where unsafe lead levels were detected were:
• North Elementary School in Sycamore
• North Grove Elementary
• South Prairie Elementary (shown)
• West Elementary
A law signed by Gov. Brucer Rauner in January 2017 required Illinois public schools housing students up to fifth-grade and built before 1987 to test all their potable water sources by the end of 2017. Those built in 1987 and after must do them by the end of this year.

In DeKalb and Sycamore, the water source that ran furthest afoul was a sink in Jefferson Elementary, whose test came back at 1,480 parts per billion. The next-most-concerning source was at Lincoln, at 140 parts per billion, with Tyler next in line at 123.
Tammy Carson, director of facility operations with D-428, wrote in a letter sent to parents Friday that samples from sinks in eight classrooms at Tyler Elementary School had lead levels greater than 5 parts per billion. Some of them were nearly 10 times the district’s action level of 15 parts per billion, at which repairs are considered necessary.

Lead is a poison that affects virtually every system in the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is particularly harmful to the developing brains and nervous systems of young children. Children’s exposure to lead has been linked to developmental delays, as well as violent behavior later in their lives.
(Caption: South Prairie Elementary School third grade student Jenna Garnet (center) sings the school song along with classmates and principal Kreg Wesley (right) during the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 at South Prairie Elementary School in Sycamore.)

Samples must be sent to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency-accredited lab, and test results will be sent the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The state requires that any potable water source that tests at more than 20 parts per billion must be remediated, meaning fixing pipes and other infrastructure.
Tim Vincent, principal of Clinton-Rosette Middle School, lives in Sycamore and has two children who attend in D-427 – one a second-grader and the other a kindergartner.

“It’s not alarming to me as a parent, and you're going to see these sort of results statewide,” he said. "The state recommendation of what’s actionable, I know that would be considered a safe level. It looks concerning because it’s a state mandate.”
Both the DeKalb and Sycamore school districts hired Aires Consulting, a division of Gallagher Bassett Services, to do the tests.

D-428 Superintendent Jamie Craven said he's happy with the results, seeing as how test samples from all the drinking fountains came back in compliance.

"Overall, the test results are very good and manageable," he wrote in a letter in the agenda for the Tuesday school board meeting. "All drinking fountains are under 15.0 ppb. On any classroom sink over 15.0 ppb, a sign will be placed stating 'not for drinking.' "
The law, which affects about 2,500 schools and 11,000 licensed day care centers, stems from the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.

Districts may use tax revenue levied for student safety and legal issues to pay for the testing. They must notify parents if any samples test above 5 parts per billion, although the law doesn’t spell out remediation requirements. Per the law, by Jan. 1, 2018, the state must determine mitigation requirements.