Winger urges guidelines to keep school water sources safe
Fearing another potentially dangerous water situation such as the one that forced Elgin district schools to close for three days, Rep. Christine Winger (R-Wood Dale) introduced a House resolution on Tuesday that would require guidelines be put in place on how schools handle water quality issues, especially during potential a contamination.
“HR94 calls for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to work together to provide guidance for developing and implementing a comprehensive water quality management plan,” Winger said. “They should report back on their work by Dec. 31, 2017.”
Eastview Middle School, Larkin High School and Gifford Street High School, along with the Elgin school district central office, were closed after elevated levels of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, were found in the schools’ water cooling units. Legionnaires' is a form of pneumonia acquired by breathing infected water vapors and mists. The disease can be deadly to young children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems. It thrives in air conditioners, showers, water tanks and plumbing systems.
Elgin schools had to close because no protocol existed for the situation, Winger said.
“This should fix that going forward,” she said. “This bill is bipartisan supported.”
The resolution was passed unanimously in the House, but not before Rep. André Thapedi (D-Chicago) asked where the water tests would take place. Winger said the bill will encourage school districts to act autonomously.
“Over the past year, there has been good work done in the school systems and with ISBE in planning for water quality plans that encourage school districts to create their own,” Winger said. “This is not necessarily defining exactly where testing takes place. In this particular issue with Legionella, it was detected within the water cooling system, and there wasn’t a clear guideline on that as well. This is basically learning from lessons of the past and encouraging the schools to be more proactive in how they react to certain circumstances.”
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