The Crusader Newspaper Group

Parents Demand Answers to Lead in Water at South Side School

By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader

A raucous meeting earlier this week at Tanner School in the Grand Crossing community ended with parents cursing at school and CPS administrators but getting few answers into a potential serious problem.

Tanner, located in the 7300 block of south Evans, was found to have higher than normal amounts of lead in its drinking water during a test as part of a pilot program last week. Of the 32 schools tested, Tanner was the only one who had lead levels that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptance level. Last week CPS cutoff the water at the school as the results of the test came in. Students and staff have been using bottled water. But parents are still worried that after a week officials still seem to have few answers.

“I think had this been a school on the North Side we would have gotten answers a lot quicker. In fact the problem would have been solved by now,” said Darius Clemons who has a nephew at the school.

Tanner has 400 students, according to CPS and another 40 or so staff members. CPS tested the water at the 32 sites because they were all built before 1986. Officials say it is their intent to eventually test the water at all of the district’s school buildings and facilities.

Lead poisoning is most often caused by lead paint said health officials. But after what happened last year in Flint, Michigan, the entire nation is on alert about bad drinking water. Lead is a highly toxic metal and can cause serious health problems, including death. Because of this fact, parents are taking no chances.

“I’m going to have my grandson tested right away even though CPS is not paying for it,” said Earl McGee,” who is raising his daughter’s 10 year-old. “There is a lot going on in this community right now with violence and a lack of jobs. The one place we think kids are safe and where they can better themselves is school. But now I found out that could kill them. I’m so mad I don’t know what to say.”

And it is not just people at the school. Residents who live in the area are also concerned. They say if the school’s water is bad, then that means their water is probably bad too.

“You don’t have to be no genius to know if the water is bad across the street, then it’s probably bad on your side of the block too,” said Denise Carter. “We’ve yet to hear from the city or the alderman about what we should do because everyone is focusing on the school.

Crusader noticed that several streets around the school are blocked off and closed due to a major construction project taking place along 75th Street. Crews are digging up the street in several directions and neighbors say

According to doctors, lead poisoning usually occurs over a period of months or years. The poisoning can cause severe mental and physical impairment. Young children are most vulnerable to lead poisoning. Symptoms of lead poisoning include but are not limited to:

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal cramps
  • aggressive behavior
  • constipation
  • sleep problems
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • loss of developmental skills in children
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • high blood pressure
  • numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • memory loss
  • anemia
  • kidney dysfunction

If you suspect you may have lead poisoning you should go your local emergency room or poisoning center immediately. Next Tuesday and Wednesday there will be a mobile health center at the school to test all students, according to schools CEO Forrest Claypool.


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