EPA: Tests show lead in some East Chicago drinking water

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 12:30 PM

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) — Environmental Protection Agency officials say the federal agency's tests have discovered elevated levels of lead in drinking water in a northwestern Indiana city where contamination already has forced some residents to move.

The EPA on Thursday confirmed the lead levels in some homes in East Chicago. Acting regional administrator Robert Kaplan told The (Northwest Indiana) Times (http://bit.ly/2giorF2 ) that the results are preliminary and don't indicate if there is a widespread problem. He advised concerned residents to use a water filter.

Earlier this year, some residents of public housing were told to move because of high levels of lead and arsenic found at the complex, which is on the former site of a plant that melted lead and copper and is on the EPA's list of priority cleanup sites. The EPA said in November that it would conduct a number of pilot programs, including drinking water testing at properties at the Superfund site.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland wrote in a letter posted online and confirmed by his office that says the EPA told him 18 of the 45 homes tested had at least one water sample exceeding the standard of 15 parts per billion for lead in drinking water. Even low lead levels in children can reduce IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement.

In his letter, Copeland criticized the EPA for using what he called a "new, unproven (and) unaccredited test" and releasing the data without quality control procedures.

But the EPA doesn't fault the city for not knowing about the lead drinking water levels sooner, Kaplan said.

"This is not a test typically conducted by a water authority. No one is faulting the water authority," said Kaplan, adding that the testing isn't new and has been used elsewhere.

Copeland says he's asking for state and federal funding to replace all water infrastructure that may contain lead or violate water safety standards.

The dangers of lead contamination were highlighted this year by the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where old pipes leached lead into the city's drinking water beginning in 2014.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com