MORGAN PARK — A water fountain at Esmond Elementary School in Morgan Park was found to have elevated levels of lead.
The school at 1865 W. Montvale Ave. is among a dozen Chicago Public Schools found with lead since testing began citywide last month. So far, 58 schools have received results of the lead tests.
"We are aggressively trying to get the schools tested in the next two weeks," Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) said Wednesday evening.
O'Shea outlined the citywide problem at a town hall meeting held at the Chicago Police Department's Morgan Park District station. He said lead contamination was not occurring in the city's water treatment plants.
Rather, the water tends to come in contact with lead pipes where it connects to the water main in the street or parkway. From there, it is distributed throughout homes, schools and businesses via faucets, water fountains and other dispensing mechanisms, O'Shea said.
Earlier in the day, O'Shea posted a message on his Facebook page encouraging concerned residents to call 311 or visit the website of the city's Department of Water Management to receive a free residential water testing kit.
"Some of the service lines that run from the water main to a residence are lead, especially in homes built prior to 1986," O'Shea said in his post.
As for Esmond, it's among the 11 schools that have tested above federal limits of 15 parts per billion, or .015 milligrams of lead per liter of water. The 12th school, Reilly Elementary, is being retested after concerns the test might not have been accurate.
The tainted samples have largely come from drinking fountains, along with one kitchen sink and four other sinks, CPS said. Any schools with samples above federal standards will have water shut off until the issue is addressed.
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Half the 12 schools had just a single source of contamination, with some barely exceeding the acceptable levels of lead found in water.
Another 13 schools had some lead in their water samples, but were below the federal threshold for allowed levels. Burroughs Elementary School in Brighton Park, for example, had traces of lead in all 45 of its samples, with the highest result at 2.17 parts per billion.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool called for citywide testing in late May after Tanner Elementary tested positive last month as part of a pilot program. CPS began by testing 324 schools built before 1986 with pre-kindergarten programs.
The government is especially concerned with children drinking lead-tainted water, as they're more susceptible to its effects. Amounts of lead that won't hurt adults can hinder mental and physical development in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
While no level of lead is totally safe when found in drinking water, experts say hand-washing or other contact exposure is not harmful.
Concerns over lead poisoning stemming from the rampant lead-related issues in Flint, Mich., pushed CPS to test 32 schools in April before expanding the program to every school in the city before the end of the school year. In Flint, nine in 10 homes tested had lead values averaging 25 parts per billion.
CPS pledged to notify students' families, supply bottled water for children and make repairs at any school with lead found in the water. The results are also supposed to be posted online.
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