CHICAGO – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) is encouraging Southside parents and anyone concerned about lead found in drinking water at three 16th District elementary schools to attend meetings being held this week to discuss the problem. She also urged a speedy House vote on legislation the Senate passed last month to require lead testing in schools and improved communication with the public in the wake of the preventable drinking water disaster in Flint, Michigan.
“I’m determined that we will learn from Flint and work quickly to protect our young people from this poison,” said Collins, a chief co-sponsor of the legislation (Senate Bill 550). “I commend CPS for its proactive lead testing regimen, and I believe it’s important for parents in our communities to educate themselves about the dangers of lead, ask questions and keep the pressure on until no child is drinking unsafe water.”
Ingestion of lead is associated with serious developmental delays, especially in young children. The danger is more acute in older buildings, where lead pipes and chipping lead-based paint may be found. While there is no safe amount of lead to consume, the federal government has adopted an “action level” of 15 parts per billion as a threshold for mitigation. Senate Bill 550 puts this limit into state law and requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to establish a program to identify lead hazards in schools statewide and make sure they are corrected as quickly as possible. It would create a legal obligation to inform parents and guardians whenever elevated lead levels are found in the drinking water at their children’s schools.
When CPS tested drinking water supplies at Harvard Elementary School, Parker Elementary Community Academy and Wentworth Elementary School, some samples in these buildings contained lead levels that exceeded the federal threshold. The school district is holding meetings around the city this week to discuss the lead testing program and its next steps to protect students from lead. These include a meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Corliss High School at 821 E. 103rd St., and another on Friday at 4 p.m. at Simeon High School at 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. They are free and open to the public.
“I encourage parents and caregivers – especially those with children who attend Harvard, Parker and Wentworth – to attend if possible and to ask tough questions,” Collins said. “I also urge my constituents to join me in asking the House to pass and the governor to sign legislation ensuring no community in Illinois becomes the next Flint.”