Does CPS’ Water-Testing Method Adhere to Best Practices?

About two weeks ago, the city of Chicago announced it would begin testing for lead in the water of 28 Chicago Public Schools.

A new report by WBEZ reporter Monica Eng takes a closer look at how the district is testing for lead and whether this method follows best practices.

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Eng said CPS is doing what the Environmental Protection Agency calls the “first draw” – a testing method that takes the first eight ounces of water out of the tap each morning after not being used overnight.

“But what the U.S. EPA and the Flint Clean Drinking Water Task Force recommended was that people take a follow-up sample too about 45 seconds later,” Eng said.

According to Eng, CPS is following EPA protocol in the water sampling. They’re taking samples mostly from water fountains and school kitchens. But other school districts, including those in Detroit and New York, take a second sample.

“If you had more, you could find out, maybe, [if there is lead in] the pipes behind the wall. And if you had even more, you might even be able to find out if some lead water lines that are connected to the water main might be affecting things,” Eng said.

Eng said she’s confirmed that CPS is doing the first draw, but they haven’t confirmed if they are taking a second sample.

“They haven’t answered a lot more questions, and that’s been disturbing some parents and others, because they say they want to be transparent about it," Eng said. "But we’ve sent a lot of questions to CPS, including how many schools might be connected to lead water lines, and we just haven’t gotten answers.”

While the first draw is usually an accurate predictor of lead levels in drinking water, the second sample would provide a more comprehensive answer, especially since this is the first time testing lead levels in CPS water, Eng said.

Below, a map of the 28 CPS schools that have been selected for water testing:

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