Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Zion Elementary District 6 conduct lead testing?
Following recent legislation (SB 0550), Zion Elementary District 6 engaged with Aires Consulting Firm to conduct sample testing of the water in all seven schools and the administrative offices.

What does the government say about how much lead is acceptable in water?
The U.S. EPA has set a treatment action level for lead in public drinking water supplies at 20 parts per billion (ppb). If public water systems detect lead concentrations above that level, they must implement additional treatment options and notify the public.

How much lead is in the drinking water at my child’s school?
As of March 31, 2017, Zion Elementary District 6 has completed testing for lead in drinking water at 80 separate locations -- including all drinking water fountains, classroom wash basins, kitchen taps, and staff lounges -- throughout the district. 82.5% of those locations were found to be within acceptable levels set by the EPA. As a result of this testing, there were 17.5% fixtures where testing indicated lead levels greater than 20 ppb. All affected fixtures were immediately shut down and water was turned off to place them out of order. Testing also revealed 50% of water fixtures, though within the acceptable range yielded elevated lead levels.

Why could there be lead in District 6 school drinking water?
100% of Zion's drinking water is supplied from Lake Michigan. Regular testing of that water for numerous potential contaminants, including lead, is performed  and can be viewed in the Zion Public Works Department's Annual Water Quality Report 2015. PH of supplied water is always over 7.0.

Although the amount of lead allowed to be used in water fixtures and plumbing materials has been declining over many years, it is very common for water pipes, fountain/faucet fixtures, and plumbing solder, to have parts that contain some amount of lead. In general, older parts contain more lead than newer parts, and lead can be released into tap water from these materials over time through a process called leaching. The amount of leaching, if any, that occurs depends not only on how much lead may be present in the plumbing materials themselves, but on other factors such as the pH of the water, whether the water is heated, and the amount and frequency of water flushing through the plumbing system.

What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring, bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. Lead in air is usually released by power plants or smelters. Lead in soil and water usually occurs from natural sources in the ground, or when lead settles out of the air. (The use of unleaded gasoline in recent decades has greatly reduced the total amount of airborne lead, and reduced the amount that settles to the ground.)

Is exposure to lead a health concern?

Lead is a concern because it is a toxic metal that can cause immediate effects at high doses and long term effects if it builds up in the body over many years. Children are more vulnerable to lead because their bodies are smaller, and because they are still developing. Pregnant women and their unborn babies are also at higher risk for negative health effects associated with lead exposure. See American Water Association DrinkTap.Org

How can children come into contact with lead?
Lead is commonly found, usually at low levels, in food, air, soil, and water (both at school and at home). The most common source of children’s overexposure to lead is aging lead-based paint. Lead-based paint is often found in homes that were painted or built before 1978. In these homes, old paint can peel, chip, or weather to produce dust that contains lead. Other household/consumer products may also contain lead.

What types of health effects can be caused by exposure to lead?
Depending on the amount of exposure, lead can impact many body systems. The most common symptoms of lead poisoning include effects on learning, behavior (attention span, hyperactivity), growth, hearing problems, headaches, and anemia (including fatigue). Children are considered more sensitive than adults to lead’s health effects, especially effects involving development and learning. Children are most sensitive to these types of effects from the ages of birth until four years old.

A child’s blood lead concentration depends on their environment, habits, and nutritional status. Each of these can influence lead absorption. In other words, children living, playing, or studying in the same general environment can have very different lead concentrations in their bloodstream depending on their individual habits and nutritional status. Similarly, children’s potential lead exposure may change as they age or change residences, habits or environments. See PEHSU Medical Management Recommendations

Does washing hands or showering in lead-contaminated water pose a risk?
No. 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 U.S. EPA’s action level. This is because human skin does not absorb lead in water. See

How were these water samples collected and tested?
These samples were collected by Aires Consulting. Water testing followed protocol recommended by IDPH and the LDWTB . All water sources have two samples collected. The first collection at each source is a “first draw” sample. Water collection occurs in first draw samples after sources were unused for at least eight (8) hours but not more than 18 hrs. The second sample at that source is collected after 30 seconds of flushing. Each sample is given an identifier with letters that identify the school and a number that identifies the source. An “A” after the letter indicates a first draw sample and a “B” identifies a flush sample. For example sample BP – 09A was collected at location 9 at Beulah Park School and is a first draw sample.

After collection, samples were transported in a cooler with an ice pack. Samples were
analyzed by Prairie Analytical Systems, Inc. Prairie Analytical is accredited by the
National Environmental Laboratory Environmental Conference (NELAC).
The EPA recommends taking action to reduce lead levels if sample results exceed 20
ppb. That action could include water treatment or fixture replacement.
Public water supplies are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act to take corrective
action if 10% or more of their sources contain lead levels greater than 15 ppb.

How are lead levels measured in people?
When scientists evaluate health effects from lead exposure, they usually look at the amount of lead found in blood or “blood lead level” (BLL), which is expressed in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, or “µg/dL”. Blood testing is the most useful available measure for assessing lead exposure in children. Results from these tests can be compared to established governmental guideline levels, such as those from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Parents or guardians with any concerns about their children’s potential exposure to lead from any source(s) may consult a medical professional about whether blood or other diagnostic testing is advisable. Blood lead level tests are covered by Medicaid and most private health insurance.
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