Lead testing continues on CPS water

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Concern grows about lead contamination in the water supply at Chicago Public Schools and for the first time, ABC7 cameras were on hand for testing inside a school. (WLS)

More lead testing continued Thursday at Chicago Public Schools after more water tested positive for lead.

Elevated lead levels have been detected in nearly two dozen Chicago Public Schools, and parents are not happy.

Water sources being tested are drinking fountains, kitchen sinks and sinks used for drinking. If elevated levels are found, sinks and fountains are immediately turned off.

CPS will hold one-hour community meetings to discuss the issue this month.

Upcoming Community Meetings on Water Tests for Lead Testing in Schools

June 20: Mather High School, 5835 N. Lincoln Ave from 6 - 8 p.m.
June 21: Michele Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison St. from 4 - 6 p.m.
June 21: Payton High School, 1034 N Wells Street, 6 p.m.
June 22: Back of the Yards, 2111 W. 47th St from 6 - 8 p.m.
June 23: Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 Stony Island Ave from 4 - 6 p.m.
June 23: Corliss High School, 821 E. 103rd St from 6 - 8 p.m.
June 24: Simeon High School, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave from 4 - 6 p.m.

As of Monday, the district had test results for 1,122 fixtures - sinks and drinking fountains - in 78 schools. Of those results, 48 fixtures, or 4.3 percent of the total, have at least one sample with a lead level above the U.S. EPA's action level. That count includes 26 drinking fountains and 22 sinks, four of which were in kitchens.

The district said it has collected 20,784 samples of potable water sources; 4,750 samples have been returned from the labs, with 103 results showing actionable levels of lead, or 2.2 percent of the returned samples.

About 224 of the 324 schools built before 1986 with pre-K programs have been tested and the results at 78 schools have been returned. Of those 78 schools, 23 had results above the EPA's action level. Families at these schools have been notified, and in most cases each school had one or two fixtures that showed results above the action level.

CPS says that in general, many of the fixtures with readings above action level may not be in frequent use. One sign of a fixture that is rarely used is an initial high reading, followed by subsequently lower readings as the water continues to run, CPS said. That result could also indicate issues with the fixture itself. CPS says all those fixtures were shut off.

Last month, CPS said it planned to expand its lead testing program after it found elevated levels at Tanner Elementary School.

CPS released a list of the 23 schools that had at least one water fountain or fixture with lead levels above the EPA action level of more than 15 ppb:

1. Beasley (1 drinking fountain, 2 sinks and 1 sink in kitchen that is not used)
2. Beidler (1 sink)
3. Blaine (1 drinking fountain and 1 sink)
4. Blair (1 drinking fountain and 3 sinks - the sink in Room 106 is a rarely used office sink).
5. Brentano (1 drinking fountain and 1 sink for handwashing in kitchen).
6. Budlong (1 sink).
7. ***Carver G (3 drinking fountains)
8. Chappell (1 kitchen sink)
9. ***Chase (2 sinks)
10. ***Disney (1 sink)
11. Durkin Park (1 sink)
12. Esmond (1 drinking fountain)
13. Fernwood (2 drinking fountains)
14. Gunsaulus (1 kitchen sink)
15. Harvard (1 drinking fountain)
16. LaSalle II (1 sink)
17. Locke J (1 sink)
18. ***Nightingale (1 drinking fountain)
19. Peirce (1 drinking fountain)
20. Perez (1 drinking fountain)
21. Reilly (4 drinking fountains and 4 sinks - the Department of Water Management conducted several plumbing modifications at Reilly, and the school was retested Tuesday morning. Results will be released as soon as they are available.)
22. Tanner (4 drinking fountains)
23. Wentworth (4 drinking fountains)

The district is taking proactive steps to make sure children's drinking water is safe across all schools.

While samples will be taken from every CPS school, older buildings, like Avalon Park Elementary, are priority before the end of the school year.

Higher than normal levels of lead in water is especially bad for kids and has been linked to stunted growth, and learning disabilities," a spokesman with the Chicago Department of Health said. "We are assisting CPS's testing efforts. We are part of the team."

"They have their own program; early on we advised them how to do our program, but they developed their own," a spokesman for the Chicago Water Department said.

While lead poisoning can cause developmental problems in children, before parents press the panic button, experts say parents must understand that the water itself starts out safe. The problem with lead comes from the pipes carrying the water or old water fountain parts.

Anita Weinberg with Lead Safe Illinois said elevated lead levels depend on a number of factors.

"It has a lot to do with where water fountain is found, how frequently people drink out of it, whether child is drinking out of it, how old the child is," she said.

Weinberg said younger children are at greater risk but she said in Chicago lead at schools is not how kids are developing lead poisoning.

"There is much more to be concerned about the lead paint on walls in your old home that there is lead in water," she said.

More information is available at cps.edu/leadtesting.

Related Topics:
educationeducationhealthchicago public schoolsleadChicago - Downtown
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