Schools in communities with aging water systems miss deadline for free lead testing

A growing number of Northwest Indiana school districts have signed up for a free lead-in-water testing program, but several schools in communities with aging water systems appear to have missed a deadline to enroll.
The following districts operate schools listed as eligible but not participating in the Indiana Finance Authority’s free, voluntary water-testing program, records show: The School City of Hammond; Aspire Charter Academy in Gary; Charter School of the Dunes in Gary; East Chicago and Gary Lighthouse Charter Schools; Steel City Academy in Gary; Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary; LaPorte Community School Corp.; and Neighbors New Vistas High School in Portage.
Some schools, including Valparaiso Community Schools and East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy, did not participate in the IFA program because they recently conducted independent testing of drinking water, administrators said.
Exposure to lead poses serious health risks, particularly to young children and fetuses.
Even at low doses, it can cause irreversible learning disabilities and health problems.
The Indiana Finance Authority issued a report in December 2016 that found the state’s aging water infrastructure needs $2.3 billion in immediate repairs and $815 million a year in additional maintenance spending to protect human health.
East Chicago’s lead levels also have been within allowable limits when tested under the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, but EPA in 2016 found elevated lead levels at 18 homes while conducting a more robust type of water sampling during its investigation within the USS Lead Superfund site.
Michigan City Area Schools spokeswoman Betsy Kohn said representatives from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey visited many of the district’s buildings in mid-September — including Barker Middle School, Edgewood Elementary, Knapp Elementary, Joy Elementary, Krueger Middle School, Lake Hills Elementary, Marsh Elementary, Michigan City High School, Niemann Elementary, Ames Field, Mullen School, AK Smith Career Center and the administration building.
Hinckley, who was appointed by the state in August to take over the financially and academically strapped school district, along with a team of financial and academic experts from MGT Consulting Group, ordered the district to participate.
Additional districts enrolled in the program include Crown Point Community Schools, Hanover Community School Corp., Lake Central School Corp., Lake Ridge Schools, Lake Station Community Schools, Merrillville Community School Corp., River Forest Community School Corp., School Town of Munster, Tri-Creek School Corp., Duneland School Corp., East Porter County School Corp., MSD of Boone Township in Hebron, Portage Township Schools and Union Township School Corp.

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