Austin school tests positive for lead in the drinking water

June 26, 2016
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CPS officials report that traces of lead have been found in the water at Spencer Elementary Technology Academy, the first Austin school to test positive after high levels were found in Flint, Michigan, and elsewhere around the country.

Five of 190 samples taken June 1 at these Spencer locations came back higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for lead:

  • 1A kitchen
  • 1A classroom 411
  • 1A classroom 405
  • 1A south boy’s bathroom

Spencer is among 29 CPS schools across the city out of hundreds to be tested that have come back positive for lead as of June 23rd, according to the Chicago Tribune.

At a meeting held June 7th at Michele Clark High School – one of several organized by CPS – officials outlined the steps and protocols being taken to make sure all 529 schools are tested in the next few months.

Chief of Facilities Jason Kierna said there’s a priority on testing facilities – 324 in all – that were built before 1986 and have pre-kindergarten students.

“CPS is looking to complete testing of the remaining 205 campuses by fall of this year,” he said.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner told DNAinfo that families at the schools where lead has been found have been notified by their principals.

Arthur Slater, acting administrator at Spencer, told AustinTalks Friday that “a letter was sent out to the parents last week, before the end of school.” He declined further comment.

Dr. Cort Lohff, of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said children can be exposed to lead outside of school, noting the most common exposure is from lead-based paint in their homes, not in drinking water at their schools.

Local Ald. Chris Taliaferro was among several Chicago City Council members who  earlier this month called for public hearings to be held on the issue, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Some of the seven public meetings CPS held last week to explain how district officials are handling the threat of lead-contaminated water were sparsely attended, prompting residents and community groups to question whether CPS did enough to publicize them.

Just one parent showed up at the Michele Clark meeting, according to DNAInfo Chicago.

Here are the other Austin schools that still need to be tested:

  • Plato Elementary, 5545 W. Harrison
  • Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison
  • Leland Elementary, 512 S. Lavergne Ave.
  • Depriest Elementary, 139 S. Parkside Ave.
  • Ellington Elementary, 243 N. Parkside Ave.
  • Catalyst Elementary, 5608 W. Washington Blvd.
  • Austin Business & Entrepreneurship High School, 231 N. Pine Ave.
  • Austin Polytechnical High School, 231 N. Pine Ave.
  • Voise High School, 231 N. Pine Ave.
  • Douglas High School, 543 N. Waller Ave.
  • Howe Elementary, 720 N. Lorel Ave.
  • Nash Elementary, 4837 W. Erie
  • Kipp Primary, 1440 S. Christiana
  • McNair Elementary, 4820 W. Walton
  • Banner West High School, 5035 W. North Ave.
  • Brunson Elementary, 932 N. Central Ave.
  • Hay Elementary, 1018 N. Laramie Ave.
  • Lewis Elementary, 1431 N. Leamington
  • Young Elementary, 1434 N. Parkside

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