Drinking fountains near replacement at Moline elementary schools after lead contamination

MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) – Thirteen drinking fountains were removed from Lincoln-Irving and Jefferson schools in Moline.

Since the fall, students have drunk out of bottled water while the process to install new fountains was underway.

The fountains were taken out of service after lead testing was conducted at 15 schools in the district. This was done because of a mandate in Illinois which obligated all school buildings housing pre-k through fifth-grade students built before Jan. 1, 1987 have drinking sources tested for lead before the end of 2017.

“It cost the district $20,260,” said Facilities Director Dan Smith.

The district says that cost is not covered by the state. But the tests revealed more than 50 classroom sinks and fountains in the district tested positive for more than 5ppb of lead in the water.

“All the law required us to do was the testing and the notification to parents,” Smith said. “And we did that prior to Jan. 1 of this year. We did that, we followed that, we released it, you know we told the parents which fountains passed or which fountains failed by location by school.”

They were not required to fix the problem. But the district did make replacing the drinking fountains a priority.

“It’s obviously for the health of the children, and obviously they made us test it, so we felt that you know we’re going to go above and beyond,” Smith said. “Student safety is the number one priority for in my opinion for the district.”

But the upgrades do come at a cost.

“The fountains cost about $1,000 apiece and that’s just the fountain,” Smith said.

The district is holding off on replacing classroom hand sinks until they can figure out a funding source. Smith says that could either be through the state or a cost the district endures over time. But it is something they plan to do.

“We try to tell them you know don’t drink out of the bathroom sinks, so yeah we want to do the right thing but you’re talking probably several hundred thousand dollars to do all this,” Smith said.

Time will tell when the sinks are fixed, but Smith says the fountains should be up and running soon.

“I expect the tile to be in this week, this weekend the tile guy will be in here and I expect them to be open next week,” Smith says.

Once installation is complete, he believes there should be no problems with the drinking water.

“Here it was easy to determine that it was the fountain because not all of them failed,” he said of the school’s testing failure.

In 2018, the district will need to test two more school’s drink water for lead. The same mandate requires all schools built between Jan. 2, 1987 and Jan. 1, 2000 to be tested by the end of 2018.