Chicago Park District Shuts Down Two Fountains Due To Lead Concerns | WBEZ
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Chicago Park District Shuts Down Two Fountains Due To Lead Concerns

The Chicago Park District shut down two North Side outdoor drinking fountains as it tests them for lead contamination. The move follows an ABC-7 TV investigation indicated problems.

The TV station says its investigative team tested 11 park district fountains along the city’s lakefront and in Lincoln Park Zoo. The team found levels that exceed federal standards at two. One is located at Montrose Avenue and the lakefront path, which they say had levels of 19 parts per billion. The other is near the elephant house in the zoo, which the station’s testing indicated had 15 ppb. The federal action limit is 15 ppb. The EPA uses the level to gauge whether a municipality must remediate its water supplies. The actions only kick in, though, if more than 10 percent of sampled homes meet or exceed the action limit.

Park District officials say they turned off the fountains Friday. They will not say when they expect their own test results.

District officials say they have not been able to verify the station’s results because they are not sure if their methodology was aligned with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. The station, however, says it used a Naperville lab that followed all EPA guidelines. WBEZ asked ABC 7 for the name and contact info of the lab it used; it did not get an immediate response.

The news regarding the pair of outside fountains comes as the Park District tests for lead in fountains inside 60 field houses. The tests are being conducted across the city: 20 each from the district’s three administrative zones (north, south and west). Officials say the district will have results from the indoor tests sometime in July, but they won’t say if they’ll be released before 40,000 kids start district summer camps next week.

Concerns over lead in drinking water have swelled in the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Many school districts, including Chicago’s, have begun checking their own water for lead. And the most recentposted results from Chicago Public Schools indicate that nearly a third have water with lead levels that exceed federal action limits.

Children are especially susceptible to the effects of lead, which can adversely affect cognitive development, attention and behavior.

WBEZ started looking at Park District water in response to a question from Curious City listener Svitlana Popyk, who asked “Where can I get lead stats on Chicago lake path drinking water fountains?” At this time, the District's current testing efforts are concentrated indoors.

Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org.

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