AVALON PARK — When news broke that Avalon Park on the South Side had off-the-charts lead levels in its drinking fountains, Linda Hudson's phone started ringing.
Hudson, interim president of the Avalon Park Advisory Council, said residents wanted to know what to do. Should they gets their kids tested for lead? And what about their homes?
“Everyone is in crazy mode because we don’t know how long it’s been that way, and there are a lot of kids who frequent the park,” she said, adding that groups of seniors regularly walk in the park as well.
Avalon Park is just one of more than 200 Chicago parks with high levels of lead in its drinking fountains, but the levels at the park at 1215 E. 83rd St. are the highest in the city. An indoor fountain there has 1,800 parts per billion of lead, while another clocked in at 1,200 parts per billion.
The Environmental Protection Agency says water systems with more than 15 parts per billion of lead need to be fixed. Public health groups have said no levels of lead are safe.
The Chicago Park District launched its testing program last spring, said Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, adding that the fountains at Avalon Park were shut off when the high lead levels were discovered.
"These fountains will undergo further testing and will be removed, repaired or replaced, as necessary," Maxey-Faulkner said.
Hudson said residents of her South Side neighborhood have been skeptical about the quality of their water for a while, but people are “concerned about their kids because there are lots of activities at the park. When the kids get thirsty they want to get a drink."
Hudson said she has been using bottled water since she moved to the neighborhood in 1993. With the new test results, she said all of the water needs to be tested for lead.
Another resident, Stann Champion, has been in his home since the late 1980s. Like Hudson, he has never trusted the water and brings his own bottled water when he heads to the park.
Test results found that the park has water with 1,800 parts per billion of lead in water fountain. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
Champion said he wants to make sure his neighbors are aware that they've been exposed to high levels of lead, and plans to spread the word.
The Park District said it sent a letter to parents about the lead levels and posted information on its website.
Former water chemist and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Kari K. Steele said that people should always be concerned when lead levels are more than 15 parts per billion in drinking water.
“If I had a child who maybe consumed water at Avalon Park, I would definitely make an appointment with the pediatrician,” she said. “You can get your lead levels with blood work just to see what you're dealing with.”
Steele also suggested that pregnant women get tested.
Water at 200 Chicago parks throughout the city tested positive for elevated levels of lead, the Chicago Park District announced earlier this week. Tests were conducted on 2,435 indoor and outdoor drinking water fountains and kitchen sinks. Results of the tests found about 43 percent of Chicago's parks had elevated levels of lead in the water from at least one sink or drinking fountain.
Other South Side parks with elevated levels include:
Lindblom Park, 6054 S. Damen Ave., has an outdoor fountain with 16.4 parts per billion of lead.
Moran Park, 5727 S. Racine Ave., has an outdoor fountain with 73 parts per billion, another fountain with 1.92 and a third with 49.4.
West Lawn Park, 4233 W. 65th St., has five fountains and water in the women’s locker room that tested positive with high levels of lead. One has 15.3 parts per billion of lead.
Memorial Park, 149 W. 73rd St., has three outdoor fountains. The highest tested at 59.8 parts per billion.
Cole Park, 361 E. 85th St., has five fountains, the highest tested at 42.4 parts per billion.
Brown Memorial Park, 634 E. 86th St., has two outdoor fountains. One tested at 41.6 parts per billion and the other at 76.2 parts per billion.
Wendell Smith Park, 9912 S. Princeton Ave., has three fountains. The highest was tested for 67.5 parts per billion of lead.
Fernwood, 10436 S. Wallace St. has a fountain with 33 parts per billion of lead.
O’Hallaren, 8335 S. Honore St., has five fountains and two have lead levels of 15 parts per billion.
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