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Daily News Archive
From March 21, 2002

Herbicide Found in School Drinking Water

Students and teachers in St. Charles, IL have recently learned they may have been drinking water poisoned with a hazardous chemical. An herbicide was discovered in Anderson School's drinking water last weekend, according to the Chicago Tribune. The herbicide, picloram, was tested at levels as high as 1.15 parts per million (ppm). EPA's standard for picloram in drinking water is only 0.5 ppm. 1 ppm can permanently damage plants.

Water to the school was immediately turned off. For the time being, students are being provided bottled water and moist towlettes. Soon a charcoal water filtration system will be installed. The county Health Department is looking at the well and site of the school to discern the source of the picloram. The county's director for environmental health Fred Carlson reports they are also "discussing with the state Health Department the potential of looking beyond the school property."

Picloram is a persistent herbicide that has been associated with extensive groundwater poisoning in the past. Because of its persistence, picloram continues to appear in soil leachate, sometimes for as long as several years. Acute health effects include skin and eye irritation, persistent headaches, fatigue and deterioration of memory and vision. Picloram has also been associated with liver damage and endocrine disruption. For more information regarding this chemical, see our picloram fact sheet.