General Questions

Why is it important to test my facility’s water for lead?

Children spend a lot of time at child care facilities and likely drink tap water and eat food prepared with water from these homes or buildings. Testing your water for lead helps you identify potential sources of lead and take appropriate action to protect the children in your facility.

Is lead testing required?

DCFS licensing standards require all licensed day care homes, day care centers, and group day care homes serving children under six years of age and built on or before January 1, 2000 to test their sources of drinking and cooking water for lead. Visit our Illinois Lead in Water Testing Rules page for more information.

What is LeadCare Illinois?

LeadCare Illinois provides free lead in water training, testing, and support for child care facilities in Illinois. The program helps child care providers address lead in drinking water and comply with lead in water testing requirements.

Who administers LeadCare Illinois?

LeadCare Illinois is administered by Elevate Energy in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Funding is provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Elevate Energy is a mission-based organization that designs and implements energy and healthy housing programs that lower costs, protect the environment, and ensure the benefits of energy and water efficiency reach those who need them most.

Do I need to pay to participate in LeadCare Illinois?

No. LeadCare Illinois offers free lead in water training, testing, and mitigation plan support to all licensed child care facilities in Illinois.

What are some everyday best practices to reduce lead in water?

In addition to immediate and long-term mitigation strategies, there are many best practices child care facilities should consider adding to standard building operating procedures to help reduce lead at water fixtures. While these should not be used in lieu of a long-term mitigation plan, you should consider following these routine practices to help reduce lead exposure.

  • Avoid using hot water directly from the tap for cooking or drinking as well as for preparing beverages or infant formula.
  • Avoid using hose bibs (outdoors or utility sinks) for drinking or cooking.
  • Clean your faucet aerators (the removable screen located at the end of your faucet) to remove built-up sediment and debris. Soaking the aerator in vinegar can help dissolve and remove particulate lead.
  • Flush fixtures for 1-2 minutes at the beginning of the day and 30 seconds before each use to reduce lead levels.
  • Develop a plan to flush your plumbing system regularly and before each use to reduce lead levels. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for routine flushing of the hot water heater.

Enrollment

How do I know if I need to test my facility's water?

Registration for a test kit through the LeadCare Illinois program is open to all DCFS-licensed home, center, and group home day care facilities in Illinois. DCFS licensing standards require you to test your facility’s water for lead if you serve children under six years of age and operate out of a home or facility built on or before January 1, 2000. Register your facility for lead in water testing here.

Do I need to complete any training before I test my facility’s water?

DCFS licensing standards require all licensed child care facilities to complete a lead safety training. We encourage you to attend a LeadCare Illinois lead safety training before beginning your lead in water testing journey. The training will teach you about LeadCare Illinois, how to test your water for lead, and mitigation strategies. Sign up to hear about upcoming trainings.

How do I register to receive a test kit?

DCFS-licensed child care providers can register for a lead in water test kit. The registration form will ask for general information about your facility, your contact information, and the number and type of drinking and cooking water fixtures located in your facility. Register your child care facility to receive your test kit.

Can I register for testing through LeadCare Illinois if I have already tested my facility’s water for lead?

Yes. There are several reasons why you may need to enroll in LeadCare Illinois even if you have already tested your facility's water for lead:

  • You received a lead in water result at 2.01 ppb or above and need to retest the water in your facility to ensure the mitigation action(s) you implemented were successful.
  • You did not use an IEPA-certified lab the first time you tested your facility's water for lead.
  • You forgot to sample a cooking or drinking water source the first time you conducted sampling.
  • You have had a change to your facility’s water profile. A change to your water profile may occur if you replaced your hot water heater, changed your water source, or replaced the water service line connected to your facility.
  • Your facility moved to a new address.

Preparing for Sample Collection

How do I prepare my facility for testing?

For detailed instructions on preparing your facility for testing, visit the How to Test Your Water page.

Should I flush my facility’s water before sampling?

No, you should not flush or run your facility’s water before sampling. You must ensure that the water in your facility has not been used for at least 8 hours but not longer than 18 hours.

Do I need to notify anyone that my facility plans to test its water?

We strongly encourage you to let parents and staff know that you will be testing your facility’s water for lead. Communicating early and often helps build trust and keep parents informed throughout the testing process. State licensing standards require that you post your test results in a visible location in your facility and make your mitigation plan (if required) available to parents. Visit the Notification Requirements page for communication templates to help you communicate with parents and staff.

Receiving My Test Kit

When will I receive my test kit?

You will receive your test kit in the mail within two weeks after you register for lead in water testing. A LeadCare Illinois specialist may reach out if there are any issues with your registration, which could delay your test kit.

What’s included in the test kit?

The following items are included in the test kit:

  • Sample bottles
  • Chain of Custody form
  • Welcome letter
  • Sampling instructions
  • Prepaid return label
  • Resealable plastic bag

Sample Collection

What water fixtures (i.e. sinks, taps, faucets) do I need to test?

You will need to sample all drinking and cooking water sources used for child care operations in your facility. This may include:

  • Kitchen sinks
  • Classroom sinks
  • Restroom sinks
  • Water dispensers
  • Automatic ice makers
  • Drinking fountains and bubblers
  • Water bottle filling stations
  • Any other drinking or cooking water sources used by children in your facility

Use the Fixture Photo Guide to help determine which fixtures need to be sampled.

How do I collect samples?

For detailed instructions on how to test your facility’s water, visit the How to Test Your Water page.

How soon do I need to send my samples to the lab after collecting them?

It is important to return your samples to the IEPA lab as soon as possible. In order for the lab to accept your samples, return the samples within seven days of collecting them.

How do I send my facility’s water samples to the lab?

After sampling, place all bottles and the completed Chain of Custody form in the postage-paid return box. Be sure the Chain of Custody form is in the resealable bag and sample bottle lids are tightly closed before mailing them back to the lab as they can come loose in transit.

Understanding Your Test Results

When will I receive my results and how do I understand them?

Within 30 days of your samples arriving at the IEPA lab, you will receive an email from LeadCare Illinois that shares your test results and next steps. Any fixture that tests below 2.01 ppb is not required to complete mitigation actions. Any fixture with a lead level at or above 2.01 ppb will require immediate and long-term mitigation to reduce lead levels below the action level. Visit our Understanding Your Test Results page for more information.

How do I notify parents, staff, and DCFS of my test results?

You are required to post all test results in a visible location in your facility and share them with your DCFS licensing representative. To communicate your results, visit the Notification Requirements page for instructions and to download letter templates that communicate your lead in water test results to parents and staff.

What is the lead action level and what does it mean?

If your test results reveal lead levels at or above 2.01 ppb, licensing standards require you to develop and implement a mitigation plan to reduce lead levels below this threshold.

Mitigation and Retesting

What do I do if lead is found in my facility’s water?

If any of your water sources test at or above 2.01 ppb, you must take immediate action to ensure a safe water supply and implement long-term strategies to reduce lead in drinking water below 2.01 ppb. For information on potential mitigation strategies, visit the Immediate and Long-Term Mitigation Strategies pages.

How do I create a mitigation plan?

Once you receive your lead testing results, use the mitigation plan workbook to help you create a long-term mitigation plan if any of your results are at or above 2.01 ppb. You can also learn more about the components of a mitigation plan on the How to Create a Mitigation Plan page.

Will LeadCare Illinois help pay for the costs of mitigation?

While LeadCare does not cover the cost of mitigation, the program will provide you with education on potential mitigation strategies, including low cost mitigation options.

When do I need to submit my mitigation plan?

Mitigation plans must be submitted to DCFS within 120 days of receiving test results indicating lead at or above 2.01 ppb. However, you must take immediate steps to ensure children have a safe drinking water supply while developing and implementing a mitigation plan.

When do I need to retest my facility?

If your initial testing results showed lead at 2.01 ppb or above, you will need to develop a mitigation plan and collect two rounds of follow up samples to ensure your lead levels are below 2.01 ppb. We encourage you to collect your follow up samples as soon as possible to ensure your mitigation actions worked. According to licensing standards, you are required to collect your follow up samples “no later than six months following the completion of a mitigation plan and a second test no later than one year after the completion of a mitigation plan.” Visit our Retesting page for more information.