Drinking fountain at Robert Crown Center that should have been shut off but was left on in error. City crews may check it this week.                                                              RoundTable photo

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City officials turned off several drinking fountains the week of June 5 because of lead contamination in parks throughout the city.

The drinking fountains “tested for lead with more than 15 parts per billion,” according to a June 7 email from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.

Fountains that were shut off after positive results for contamination include those located in Clark Square, Larimer Park, Snyder Park, Brummel/Richmond Park, McCulloch Park, and Leider Park.

The City is still waiting for test results from drinking fountains in several other locations, including Butler Park, Beck Park, Merrick Rose Garden, Perry Park, Penny Park, Smith Park, Elliot Park, Burnham Shores beach house, Robert Crown Park, Leah Lomar Park, and a fountain outside of the water plant, Mr. Bobkiewicz added. Those results are due June 20, and the fountains there will remain off in the meantime.

Staff will report back to City Council about the situation and its plans for necessary remediation at the Council’s June 26 meeting.

Neither Mr. Bobkiewicz nor Evanston Public Works Director Dave Stoneback immediately returned a request for additional comment.

In a February meeting regarding the possible coal tar contamination in pipes in the vicinity of James Park, Mr. Stoneback was asked about the possibility of lead contamination. He said the water supply was regularly tested for lead, but was not being tested at the same time as the coal tar tests. Lead levels were consistently low, he added.

Crews are continuing to excavate in the James Park area to determine the extent of coal tar contamination there. According to a June 1 news release, contractors inspected two older gas mains on Dodge Avenue; a similar excavation on Oakton Street, however, was delayed when crews discovered the main was partially filled with water. Soil and pipe samples from the excavations will be used to determine contamination levels and origins.

After trace amounts of components of the viscous substance coal tar were found in locations in the vicinity of James Park, the City sued utilities Nicor and ComEd, which are responsible for gas mains beneath the park left behind by a commercial predecessor. The City maintains that the coal tar components were detected at levels posing no threat to public safety, but wants an accounting of the mains’ layout in the park.