Hundreds of Chicago drinking fountains to stay off due to lead threat

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of drinking fountains won't be turned on to start the summer in Chicago because of the threat of lead in the water.

The Chicago Park District is once again conducting testing, which it's been doing for two years now since the ABC7 I-Team originally reported on lead in drinking fountain water.

More than 600 city parks will soon bustle with children and tourists. But the Chicago Park District announced hundreds of public drinking fountains won't be turned on, citing potentially dangerous levels of lead.

"You've got to find solutions somewhere. It's kind of unfortunate, right? Not being able to drink public water," said Andri Vasilj, visitor from California.

Monday the Park District announced that of 1,250 water fountains, approximately 550 - or nearly half -- in "low traffic areas" will remain shut off until they are remediated or removed. Five hundred fountains will return to push button use and 100 will never be shut off, continuously flowing in high traffic areas. One hundred other fountains have been removed.

"We were wondering why the fountains weren't on, so I thought they might be broken, I was going to give the city a call to see," said Dave Falguni, Chicago resident.

Leaving some 100 fountains continuously on, district officials believe, will keep lead levels below what the EPA deems unsafe.

"Wasting so much water I mean, there's no reason for that. For us tourists that come, we want to be safe drinking so," said Margarita Gerges, visitor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no level of lead is safe.

The ABC7 I-Team has been monitoring unsafe lead levels in Chicago's drinking fountains for years.

Two years ago the I-Team tested several fountains, some in schools, some in parks and even one in the Lincoln Park Zoo that was eventually shut-down.

The Park District said if a fountain is on, running or accessible for drinking it has been tested and meets all EPA standards for drinking water.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.