I-Team lead testing results prompt city action

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Independent testing by the ABC7 I-Team uncovers unsafe levels of lead at public water fountains found at popular destinations, prompting the city to take action.

The I-Team tested 11 water fountains along the lake and at the Lincoln Park Zoo after repeated questions about the Park District's plan to test for lead went unanswered. Three samples came back positive.

The elephant drinking fountain at the Lincoln Park Zoo tested high for lead in water, 19 parts per billion - above the Safe Drinking Water Act contaminant level. The zoo shut it down, turning off the water Friday after the I-Team told them and the Chicago Park District about the test results.

"This is my child. It's more important than anything," says Charles Noid of the fountain's shutdown.

At the fountain near Montrose Avenue along the Lake Shore Trail the water tested high for lead. The results were 15 parts per billion.
"I use the drinking fountains along the trail often but I'm going to have to think twice," says Jacob Gowin.

As of Friday afternoon the water was shut off.

The lakefront and zoo are both popular destinations for families. Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning because their bodies absorb metals at a greater rate. High levels of lead can cause low IQ, shorter attention span and lower performance in school.

The third water fountain that tested positive for lead is next to the children's park just south of McCormick Place. This result fell below the federal Environmental Protection Agency's "action" limit, meaning no action such as replacing the lead service lines, is required. Water is still flowing out of that fountain as of Friday afternoon.

In May, the I-Team tested a dozen drinking fountains in Cook County and the suburbs. The fountain at the Olympic Park District facility tested positive for lead, but also fell below the EPA action limit.

At that time, the Chicago Park District said its own test showed results "blow the laboratory reporting limits." They did, however, say they wuld test water at more facilities and launch a program, but wouldn't' answer the I-Team's questions about it.

The Park District refused to be interviewed on camera Friday, but issued a statement saying: "Out of an abundance caution the Chicago Park District has disabled two drinking fountains. According to lab reports provided by ABC 7, the two have detectable levels just below the EPA's action level. The Chicago Park District will conduct its own testing, and determine if further action is warranted."

The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

The I-Team's testing yielded another result: answers from the Park District about their pilot program to test water. They said they are testing 60 field house fountains in parks citywide.

As for the tests conducted on behalf of the I-Team, a certified lab in Naperville was used and all EPA guidelines were followed.


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