Chicago parks shut off many drinking fountains after tests find lead

Long before the first winter frost, hundreds of drinking fountains in Chicago parks have been shut off after testing revealed high levels of brain-damaging lead in the water.

Chicago Park District officials said Tuesday they decided to take 459, or about 18 percent, of their 2,435 water fixtures out of service based on samples collected during the summer. The action is another response to an ongoing crisis in Flint, Mich., that has drawn nationwide attention to lingering hazards in cities where lead pipes and plumbing were used for more than a century.

Though the dangers of lead have been well known for decades, until recently there has been little testing for the toxic metal in drinking water beyond samples the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires municipal water systems to periodically collect from homes.

Consultants found a wide range of lead levels in Chicago parks and Park District facilities, similar to earlier reports from Chicago Public Schools, suburban school districts and parochial schools operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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