Addressing the Lead Burden

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Environmental Justice Organization Leaders of Ixchel, with community members and Virginia Tech scientists, held a press conference on August 10th in front of Cicero Town Hall to address the safety of drinking water. Ixchel called for the Illinois EPA and the US EPA Region V to take action to ensure the people of Berwyn and Cicero can drink and cook with water that does not have contaminants and unsafe lead levels. They also want the agencies to ensure appropriate public health messaging that helps consumers avoid excessive lead in their drinking water.

Earlier this year experts with the US Water Study team at Virginia Tech conducted potable water lead testing in the two communities. The scientists found high levels of lead contamination in several Cicero and Berwyn homes, which in turn suggests problems for residents throughout Cicero and Berwyn. Lead levels measured in several locations were sustained well above the 15 ppb action level, even after 10 minutes of cumulative flushing. In early 2017, Ixchel became concerned about sources of lead exposure in the two communities. After examining Annual Drinking Water Quality Reports dating back to 2014, the discrepancies in the Town of Cicero’s reported resulted in further investigation of lead levels in water by Ixchel, according to the group. While the 90th percentile of the first draw sample from random homes is below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), the 90th percentile second draw was 25 ppb and the 90th percentile third draw was 11.2 ppb.

The Town of Cicero released a statement reassuring residents should not be worried about the safety of water and emphasized the Water Department actively monitors lead levels using State certified testing procedures to guarantee health safety. Concerns about Cicero’s water quality raised recently by a small group of activists are important, but they never provided any information to the Town on how the water samples were collected and analyzed. The Town of Cicero has led the region in fighting for clean water and was the first community to add anti-lead safeguards into the water. The practice was soon followed by the City of Chicago who provides water to Cicero and dozens of other suburban communities.

Hanania said the Town continues to monitor lead-water levels and adheres to strict testing procedures established by the State of Illinois. “We continue to urge residents to follow state recommended practices,” Hanania said.  According to the State, problems occur when water is allowed to sit for long periods of time. The State recommends that every homeowner run their drinking water for a few minutes if the water has not been used for eight hours or more, and we agree that should always be done. Hanania added that the Cicero Health Department and Health Commissioner Sue Grazzini regularly conduct year-round lead testing and those tests show lead levels are consistently low. “The safety of our citizens is the number one priority of Town President Larry Dominick and the Town Board of Trustees,” Hanania said. “Cicero’s water is safe, and we take any concerns about water quality and safety seriously.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

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