Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Monday to protect Illinois children from potential exposure to lead-contaminated drinking water.
“This is good legislation that we worked hard to pass on a bipartisan basis and actually make sure it could get implemented,” Rauner told reporters Monday. “We’ve had too much history in Illinois of passing legislation that sounds good and gets a headline and then doesn’t change the system.”
“This will change the system,” he added.
The measure outlines lead protections for Illinois schools and daycare facilities.
School buildings constructed before 1987 must complete lead testing by the end of this year. Schools built afterward must complete testing by the end of next year. Additionally, daycare centers built before 2000 will also require testing.
Rauner, who was joined Monday by Reverend Jesse Jackson, said it was fitting to sign the bill on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Jackson and Rauner both credited King’s advocacy for lead protections.
“It is especially important that we sign this bill on the birthday of one of our greatest Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for a quality of life for every American, making sure the American dream could become a reality for every American,” Rauner said.
“For too many years, the scourge of lead, lead poisoning, lead toxicity, has been endangering the children of Chicago, Illinois and across America,” he added.
After launching a pilot program to test lead levels in Chicago Public Schools, the district announced in May that it would expand testing after lead levels were detected in some buildings. A host of CPS schools ultimately tested positive for lead contamination.
Concern over lead-contaminated water increased in the wake of the ongoing Flint, Michigan water crisis, which stems from a decision to source the city’s drinking water from the Flint River, instead of Lake Huron, as a cost-cutting measure.