Water testing for lead in schools and municipalities have made national and local headlines in the past couple years. In January 2017, Public Act 099-0922 was passed, requiring that by the year’s end (Dec. 2017) Illinois school districts complete water testing in all District sites built before Jan. 1, 1987. In School DIstrict 151, 4 buildings met that criteria and were tested.

A second phase requires testing in all buildings built between Jan. 2, 1987 and Jan. 1, 2000. Phase two must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. The Illinois law only applies to buildings where pre-K through fifth grade students attend school.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets what’s called an “action level” for lead in water at 15 parts per billion (ppb), however, the Illinois law establishes more stringent guidelines, requiring districts to take action and notify parents if lead is found in water when levels are at or above 5 ppb. Please note that neither the 15 ppb, nor the state’s threshold is a health-based standard. Both the EPA and state levels were set to trigger systems to take action and mitigate the levels of lead but are not accompanied by any requirements regarding medical tests or healthcare.

School District 151 complied with the new Illinois law and contracted with EMT (Environmental Monitoring and Technologies, Inc, an environmental health company, to test all samples from our school sites. District 151 Buildings and Grounds team facilitated and conducted the samples for EMT to test. 

The District will follow, and in many cases, go above and beyond the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidelines to address the results. The District has and will continue to take the following action:

  • Drinking fountains outside classrooms will be updated with a filter, a measure that goes beyond the IDPH guidelines. These new filtered fountain systems will first be installed this summer and fall in the hallways beginning with those sites that tested above the IDPH guidelines.


  • Additionally, according to the U.S. EPA, washing hands, and even bathing or showering, should be safe for children and adults, even if the water contains lead over the U.S. EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.

For more information on lead, please find links below to resources from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

 External LinkEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA)

External LinkCenters for Disease Control (CDC)

Why did the District conduct this testing?

The District started sampling water in September 2017 as a result of an Illinois law which requires schools district to complete water testing in buildings built before Jan. 1, 1987.

What does the testing of water samples consist of?

District 151 were required by law, at minimum, to collect a first-draw 250 milliliter sample of water, let the water flow or flush for 30 seconds, and collect a second-draw 250mL sample from each source.

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring element in our environment. It can be found in the air, soil, the water, and inside buildings.  

How much lead is acceptable in water?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency set an action level for lead in public drinking water or sinks at 15 ppb and greater but does not establish related health standards. The impact of lead varies, depending on several factors, including age (children under age six are generally more at risk) and the amount of consumption. 

Is washing hands or showering in lead-contaminated water a risk?

According to the United States EPA, washing hands or showering should be safe for children and adults, even if water contains more than 15 ppb. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.