City Flooded With Requests For Home Water Lead Testing

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In this photo taken May 3, 2016, Donna McNeal, of Orion Environmental Services, collects a water sample from a classroom sink for lead testing at Fawcett Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash. Tacoma Public Schools revealed last month that multiple elementary schools tested positive for lead in the drinking water. Ted S. Warren / AP
classroom_school_lead_testing_water_faucet
In this photo taken May 3, 2016, Donna McNeal, of Orion Environmental Services, collects a water sample from a classroom sink for lead testing at Fawcett Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash. Tacoma Public Schools revealed last month that multiple elementary schools tested positive for lead in the drinking water. Ted S. Warren / AP

City Flooded With Requests For Home Water Lead Testing

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, MI, Chicago last month reminded residents that they can call 311 for free in home testing. That reminder triggered a flood of requests --1,500 so far this year as opposed to 23 for the entire year of 2015.

Acting water commissioner Barrett Murphy says when people call they have two options: They can ask for a water department representative to come out and collect the samples or they can request a self-testing kit.

“It has very clear-cut instructions in there on exactly how to take the [samples] and then you merely call us and let us know when you have finished,” Murphy said. “Then we will come and pick the bottles up from your house.”

These samples, he said, will come from a single tap of the home and include a series of samples taken in succession over many minutes. This can help the department determine if the potential lead is coming from the fixture, plumbing or lead service lines.

Once the department picks up the samples and sends them to the lab, Murphy says they usually get the results back in 7 to 10 days. Consumers then get a call and letter from the department. Many of these results will be included in an online database to be launched later this month, he says, adding that sites will be identified only by block or cross streets.