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A Chicago Public School Has Had Its Water Shut Off Due To Lead

By Mae Rice in News on May 23, 2016 6:17PM

Glass of water (photo via [cipher] on Flickr

Water in a public Chicago elementary school in Grand Crossing has been shut off due to high lead levels, a spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) told Chicagoist. The school, Tanner Elementary School, is the only one of the 32 CPS schools tested so far whose lead levels have exceeded those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The school has been relying on delivered coolers of water, the AP reported.

Six other schools have had detectable lead levels in their water systems that aren't high enough to violate EPA standards, a CPS spokesperon said. Those schools are:

* Robert Nathaniel Dett Elementary School (Near West Side)
* Charles Sumner Math & Science Community Academy (West Garfield Park)
* Charles Kozminski Elementary Community Academy (Hyde Park)
* Lenart Elementary Regional Gifted Center (Chatham)
* Nicholson Technology Academy (Englewood)
* Francis W Parker Elementary Community Academy (Englewood)

Twenty-five schools had no detectable traces of lead. Full details of the schools tested are posted at The city now plans to test 250 more CPS schools, according to the AP.

The city announced plans to test the water at CPS schools at the end of April. Earlier that month, Chicago's Water Management commissioner resigned, amid reports that the city had been less than rigorous about testing for lead in the local water supply. Water tainted with lead has been a hot-button issue across the country since it caused an epidemic of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan, which prompted the city to declare a state of emergency in December.

Roughly a dozen water systems in suburban Chicago have also reportedly exceeded EPA lead standards twice or more since 2004.

It has been widely argued, by no less than the New York Times, that officials let public health issues slide in predominantly black communities. That seems to be the case in Chicago: Grand Crossing, where the lone known water shutdown has taken place, was 95.6 percent black as of 2013, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning; Englewood, home to two of the school water systems with detectable lead in them, is 96.7 percent black as of 2013. Flint, likewise, is majority black: 56.6 percent "black or African-American" as of 2010, according to the US Census.

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