The Chicago Park District says it’s testing the water from 60 of its field houses for lead and hopes to have the results by next month. The move comes as Chicago Public School children finish the school year and many get ready for park district summer camps.
The tests are part of a pilot program to help the District determine any further action, according to Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner. On July 5 the district will be welcoming an estimated 40,000 kids to its summer camp program. When asked when the district expects results — before or after camps begin — the district would only say that test results are “expected in July.” So far, no data are publicly available about the potential presence of lead in the water from its park fountains.
The District says it’s conducting its pilot tests “out of an abundance of caution.” The District adds that it’s testing fountains across the city: “Twenty field houses from each of the three Park District regions (north, central and south) will be selected for the pilot to ensure field houses from all areas of the City are included.”
Last month ABC-7 reported it found trace amounts of lead in the water from a fountain at Olympia Park on the Northwest Side. The ABC-7 test sample indicated .007 parts per billion — well below federal limits. The District conducted its own tests at that park, and says the results showed much lower levels.
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 recent posted results from Chicago Public Schools indicate that nearly a third (27 of 93 schools) have water with lead levels that exceed federal action limits. CPS has scheduled several public meetings on the topic around the city this week.
Children are especially susceptible to the effects of lead, which can 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?” The District’s current testing efforts are concentrated indoors, at district field houses.