On Monday May 14, 2018, The Chicago Park District announced plans to shut off approximately half of the city’s outdoor drinking fountains amid recent concerns of lead contamination in the city’s tap water. Currently, the city’s supply of outdoor drinking fountains amounts to 1,250, but roughly half of those will now be shut off or removed.
According to The Chicago Tribune, about 750 of the 1,250 fountains will either be under continuous flow or shut off and removed. Drinking fountains present in areas with high traffic will remain in operation. This process will play out gradually over the course of the summer.
“If it has to run continuous for us to be confident it’s actually going to run clear, and it’s a low-traffic area, we’ll leave it off and look to remove it,” said Dan Cooper, director of environmental services for the Chicago Park District. “That means it’s probably around half that will not be running this year outdoors.”
The news comes on the heels of a recent Chicago Tribune analysis that estimated approximately 70% of 2,797 homes throughout Chicago had lead contamination in drinking water, and of these samples, three of every 10 exhibited lead concentrations above 5 ppb, the federal limit for bottled water set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The decision comes just as Chicago children are getting out of school, soon to begin various summer programs. According to the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead is unsafe for consumption at any level, as it can contribute to heart disease, kidney failure and other health problems later in life.