Aug 13, 2018

Virginia Tech Tests Find Elevated Lead Levels in Chicago Suburbs

The developing water quality study has found elevated lead levels in the Chicago suburbs of Berwyn and Cicero

Elevated lead levels found in Chicago suburbs
Elevated lead levels found in Chicago suburbs

Recent water quality tests conducted by Virginia Tech researchers found that 11 of out of 17 homes tested in the Chicago suburbs of Berwyn and Cicero had lead concentrations in the first liter drawn greater than 5 ppb, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard for bottled water. The investigation is a collaboration between the same ground of Virginia Tech researchers who helped expose lead contamination in Flint, Mich., and a Cicero environmental activism group called Ixchel.

The groups have distributed more than 100 testing kits in Berwyn and Cicero, and thus far, the results are pointing to elevated lead levels. While only four of the homes tested and analyzed so far found lead levels above the federal threshold of 40 ppb, any amount of lead in drinking water can potentially be harmful to young children or pregnant women.

The Virginia Tech tests are similar to recent water quality tests offered for free by the Chicago Department of Water Management which, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis, found lead in nearly 70% of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Furthermore, tap water in 3 out of every 10 homes tested had lead concentrations above the FDA’s bottled water standard.

“These results should be concerning to anyone, not just in the city but in the suburbs,” said Siddhartha Roy, one of the Virginia Tech researchers overseeing the Chicago testing. “They could have problems, too.”

The Virginia Tech water quality tests are still underway and are a result of Chicago resident concerns due to aging pipes. Chicago did not stop incorporating lead pipes until the federal standard was changed in 1987 to stop the construction of lead pipes.