Chicago Posts Results Of Lead Levels Found In Homes | WBEZ
Skip to main content


Chicago Posts Results Of Home Water Tests

UPDATE: The Department of Water Management has updated its list of results to reflect about 20 more households, including two where lead levels exceeded the federal standard. These include a home on the 5400 block of South Harper Avenue and one at the 10400 block of South Vernon Avenue. The latter declined retesting but samples taken from the home on Harper showed lead levels that were, at times, twice the federal action level. Water officials say they will work with residents to identify the sources of lead in their water but when it’s due to home plumbing or lead service lines, the remediation costs will be left up to the homeowner. 

The accompanying map reflects these changes. 


The City of Chicago has released its first group of results from lead testing of home water.

The results come from 70 homes throughout the city where people called to ask for water testing. None of the posted results exceed the federal standard of 15 parts per billion.

About five other residences, whose water did exceed what’s called the EPA “action level” are being retested, according to city water commissioner Barrett Murphy. Those results will be posted at a later date. Murphy says more than 100 additional results also aren’t quite ready to go online.

“We can only post after we have finalized the results, notified the consumer and IEPA and the Illinois Dept of Public Health,” he says.

The results represent only a small fraction of the number of people who’ve requested testing this year. Murphy says more than 2,700 residents have called 311 asking for home lead testing for their water. But the process has not gone smoothly.

Until mid-May, residents had to go through a multi-step process that required an initial request, followed by the need to respond to robocalls that some residents didn’t understand. Consequently, Murphy’s department streamlined the process to require just one call to 311 to make the request for home lead testing.

The commissioner says that more than 1,600 residents who requested the tests before the change were not fully registered through the robocall system. He says his department has recently sent postcards to that group allowing them to check a box and send the postcard back to confirm testing. They can also simply call 311 and use the simplified registration system now in place.

The results of these tests, Murphy says, can not be used for official federal compliance samples that are gathered every three years.

Those compliance tests only check the first liter of water out of the tap, which is considered a limited standard. The city’s self-testing program requires residents to gather three liters--the first and two more at three and five minute intervals. It’s considered a better, more complete assessment of lead presence. But Murphy says the city will not substitute the voluntary samples from homeowners for its current system of gathering federal compliance samples.

Murphy says the city will continue to use some former water department employees to submit samples for the federal compliance testing because they know how to collect the samples and their homes represent continuity in testing.

The commissioner says he hopes to have more than 1,000 results from the voluntary home testing program posted by the end of the year.

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

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.