Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Concentrations of lead and other inorganic constituents in samples of raw intake and treated drinking water from the municipal water filtration plant and residential tapwater in Chicago, Illinois, and East Chicago, Indiana, July–December 2017

November 1, 2018

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Environmental Health Mission Area (EHMA) is providing comprehensive science on sources, movement, and transformation of contaminants and pathogens in watershed and aquifer drinking-water supplies and in built water and wastewater infrastructure (referred to as the USGS Water and Wastewater Infrastructure project) in the Greater Chicago Area and elsewhere in the United States, to fill data gaps identified by stakeholders and collaborators in drinking water and public health. EHMA Water and Wastewater Infrastructure research specifically provides insight into natural factors in the environment as well as those water-infrastructure components and processes (such as source-water corrosivity, treatment, plumbing, and so forth) that might influence human exposure to chemical and microbial contaminants at the residential tap. This infrastructure-exposure research role is fulfilled uniquely by the USGS and not by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), other agencies, or municipalities that focus on regulatory and policy activities and related compliance. The USGS approach to assessing the possible links between human health and chemical contaminant and pathogen exposure in drinking water is conducted in collaboration with public health experts and includes comprehensive characterization of the presence/absence and concentrations of more than 500 organic and 27 inorganic chemical constituents at the point of use (tap).

Laboratory results for lead and other inorganic contaminants in Chicago, Illinois, and East Chicago, Indiana, residential tapwater are being released to ensure the timely release of quality-assured data to participants in the study. Concentrations of lead and other inorganic constituents were assessed in drinking water at the point of use (kitchen tap or filter) in 45 residential locations and in two locations within each of the two Chicago water purification plants and the two East Chicago water filtration plants during July–December 2017. Three methods were used for analyzing lead. The most sensitive method had a reporting limit of 0.020 micrograms per liter (µg/L). When using the most sensitive analytical method, lead was detected in 39 of 45 residential tapwater samples, with concentrations ranging from less than 0.020 µg/L to 5.31 µg/L (median of the detected values = 0.481 µg/L). Concentrations of lead also were detected in Lake Michigan intake water at all water purification/filtration plant facilities at concentrations ranging from 0.083 to 0.330 µg/L, but were not detected above the reporting limit in any samples of treated, pre-distribution drinking water at any of the water purification/filtration plant facilities.

Because the USGS Water and Wastewater Infrastructure project in the Greater Chicago Area is focused on the potential human exposure to a broad suite of organic and inorganic contaminants in drinking water and is not focused specifically on lead, the sampling protocol did not include “first-draw,” stagnant sampling and samples were collected with point-of-use treatment in place, if present. Thus, the lead results reported herein are not appropriate for assessment of compliance with the EPA 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. Information resources for lead mitigation and water filtration are provided.