FAQs about Water Testing

FAQs about Water Testing



Why did the District conduct this testing?

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


Why didn’t the District test all the schools?

The law requires the oldest school buildings, built before Jan. 1, 1987, to be tested for lead by the end of the year. The potential for lead contamination in the water supply is greater in buildings built before 1987, prior to the 1986 reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act.


The District will participate in phase two and test the water in all buildings built between Jan. 2, 1987 to Jan. 1, 2000. Phase two must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018, per state law.


What does the testing of water samples consist of?

Staff with Carnow, Conibear 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. School District U-46 classroom water fountains or bubblers that exceed the state’s 5 ppb threshold will be shut off before the start of school. In addition, 30 Districts sites now have at least one filtered water bottle filling station and the District is working to ensure more stations are installed over the course of the next school year.


What other actions might the District take?

District U-46 remediation actions will follow the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. In addition to shutting off classroom fountains, the District will replace fixtures to ensure filtered water and post signs near sinks that read “Hand washing only, not for drinking water.”


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.

What municipalities provide water to District sites?


Seven municipalities provide water to our District sites but schools tested in phase one receive water from one of just five local municipalities:


  • City of Elgin

  • Village South Elgin

  • Village of Bartlett

  • Village of Streamwood

  • Village of Hanover Park

Why did the School District U-46 release results during summer vacation?

By law, school districts in Illinois have until the end of December to test the water in sites built prior to 1987 but U-46  decided to move forward with testing in May in order to review results, received in late June, and take all necessary steps to remedy any issues prior to the start of the school year. The District reported all results to the Illinois Department of Public Health as required and promptly worked to analyze results, determine action steps and share test results with parents in early July 2017. We will continue to keep our families updated as any new information becomes available.


Will any steps be taken to mitigate or update plumbing; or will U-46 only be shutting down or adding a filter at locations with high findings of lead?

The District will shut off drinking fountains that are in classrooms at elementary schools and will instal additional filtered fountains in the halls at several locations. Filters will be installed in food service area, teachers lounge and select other areas in school buildings where samples were above the state’s threshold.


Will filters be added to drinking fountains or sinks where drinking water is obtained that were NOT tested?

All sources (sinks and drinking fountains) at the 37 schools were tested and U-46 is working to respond to those sources that showed levels above the state’s threshold of 5ppb.


When will the next series of testing occur?

The District will participate in phase two and test the water in all buildings built between Jan. 2, 1987 to Jan. 1, 2000. Phase two must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018, per state law.


Where can I get more info on where the sites that were tested are located within my child’s schools?

We listed all the sources that came back with results above 5ppb. The results can be found under the Water Testing Results page.


Some water sources in schools are being remediated by being "shut down." Does this mean that children last year were drinking from fountains that were contaminated with lead?

The test sample results are a snapshot in time; taken once as a “first draw” upon opening the faucet or turning on the fountain and then again after running for 30 seconds during the testing days in May. The decision to seek further analysis or do any medical tests is a parental one that can be made in consultation with a family doctor.  


Given the high levels found, will the District or health department provide blood lead test for students?

The decision to do any medical tests is a parental one that can be made in consultation with a family doctor. The Illinois Department of Public Health offered the following statement: While any source of lead exposure to children is concerning, the majority of child lead poisoning is attributed to lead paint and lead in soil. Even so, IDPH is addressing water as a source of lead in schools by requiring Illinois' school districts to test for lead in water and report findings to parents and guardians. IDPH has established a low threshold for reporting to allow parents to be informed about risks their children may be exposed to at school. Risk will vary however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. A blood test is the only way to find out if your child has a high lead level. Most children with high levels of lead in their blood have no symptoms. Your child's healthcare provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.