SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Last weekend, legislation requiring lead-water testing in Illinois schools and day care centers sponsored by state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, was signed into law.
“This is a social justice measure that will eliminate an outdated and unfair process of delivering safe drinking water to children,” said Harper. “We need to work harder to provide a better quality of water to all students, and there should not be a difference in the quality of water anywhere in this state.”
Harper was the chief House sponsor of Senate Bill 550 which requires more lead testing in Illinois’ schools and day care centers and ensures that lead does not exceed 5 parts per billion. Tests from last year highlighted that 113 Chicago schools had at least one water source contaminated with lead, and in other Chicago neighborhoods, schools are likely to have six times more lead contamination than others. The federal government banned the construction of lead pipes in 1986, but issues with lead still continue as the source of lead is difficult to determine.
Harper’s initiative will provide a better way to find lead in the water in an effort to eliminate life-crippling affects like brain damage, behavioral complications and learning disabilities. Senate Bill 550 requires schools built before 1986 to complete a lead testing of their drinking water by the end of 2017. For schools built after 1986, they will need to conduct lead tests by the end of 2018.
“I decided to act on this common sense issue that should have been dealt with years ago,” said Harper. “We all just learned a horrible lesson from Flint, Michigan, and we need to be proactive to make sure something similar does not happen here in Illinois. The signing of this bill is an example that community leaders from both sides of the aisle can work together to improve the quality of services for everyone.”
Harper represents the 6th District which includes all or portions of Armour Square, Bridgeport, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Back of the Yards, Canaryville, New City and West Englewood in the city of Chicago.