Lead found in water at 12 CPS schools

by Andy Grimm, originally posted on June 8, 2016


A dozen city schools had at least one source of drinking water with dangerous levels of lead, according to data from testing that began this spring.

Private testing companies have returned more than 3,000 samples from 58 schools across the city, turning up a handful of drinking fountains and faucets with concentrations higher than the EPA “action level” of 15 parts per billion, according to a statement from CPS spokesman Michael Passman.

The district began testing at schools this spring, in response to news reports about elevated levels of lead in the city’s water system, as well as dangerously high lead findings in Flint, Michigan.

“Given heightened awareness nationally about lead exposure for children and to provide parents with timely information, Chicago Public Schools is taking proactive steps to ensure that our children’s drinking water is safe across all schools by testing every school in the district,” ,” Passman said.

Exposure to lead has been linked to cognitive development problems for young children, who can encounter the substance in chips of aging paint or from contaminated drinking water, among other sources.

The city posts testing data as it is returned from the lab.

By the end of the school year, the city plans to test water at all 294 schools that offer pre-kindergarten programs, that were built before 1986, the year lead pipes were banned in new construction. Testing on remaining schools, starting with 146 pre-1986 campuses that don’t have pre-kindergarten classes, will resume in the fall.

So far, the city has received sampling data from 609 water fixtures — sinks, faucets and drinking fountains — and found 28 with lead concentrations above action levels. The fixtures that produced the elevated results all were turned off, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.

Schools that had elevated levels include Beidler (1 sink); Brentano (1 drinking fountain and 1 sink for handwashing in kitchen); Budlong (1 sink); Esmond (1 drinking fountain); Fernwood (2 drinking fountains); Harvard (1 drinking fountain); LaSalle II (1 sink); Locke J (1 sink), Peirce (1 drinking fountain); Perez (1 drinking fountain); Tanner (4 drinking fountains).

Reilly Elementary School had elevated results that are being re-tested because water may have been shut off in the days before the samples were collected, which could have compromised the results. A pilot program that tested water at 32 schools this spring found 25 schools had no detectable level of lead, and six schools with lead levels that fell below EPA guidelines.

When elevated lead levels are discovered, CPS officals contact students’ families with robocalls and a letter home.

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