Western Springs removes water fountains

Diane Makovic, Freelance Reporter

The decision to remove the fountains instead of simply shutting them down was easy for Western Springs Park Board President Chris Dallavo.

“Once we found that the elevated lead levels were there, there was no issue that they had to be shut down,” Dallavo said. “I found no benefit to having a non-working fountain there. So both from a safety standpoint – which is always priority for our patrons and parks – and from aesthetics reasons as well, I found it better to have nothing there as opposed to a non-working fountain.”

On July 21, Water Plant Superintendent Erin Duffy received the results from the water inspection of the parks done on June 27. Out of the 13 locations tested, eleven came back with safe results, but two came back with unsafe maximum contaminant levels-MCLs-for lead. Those two were then retested on July 27 according to the IETA (International Emissions Trading Association) and the results came back on Aug 14 that the two fountains were unsafe to drink from. Although the fountains had been turned off since July 21, Duffy said.

The two fountains, located at Ridge Acres Park and Spring Rock Park in Western Springs, were removed by Park District Superintendent Dennis Conway in late August. According to the IETA, the fountains only needed to be shut off, not necessarily removed.

“They needed to be shut down,” Conway said. “I was told to remove the fountains, so we removed them.”

The Park Board decided that the best choice was to remove the fountains and post a notice about the lead levels. The problem wasn’t the fountain itself, but the waterlines supplying the water, Dallavo said.

They have also been discussing whether or not to replace the fountains. A decision will mostly likely be reached this winter for replacement in the spring, as the fountains won’t be within the current park budget constraints, Dallavo said.

To see if it would be worthwhile to replace, the Park Board is considering how often they would be used. Little League players, soccer teams, runners, and patrons use the drinking fountains, but many people bring their own water bottles with them now, Conway said. Ally Sarussi ’20 runs on the cross country team and used the fountains at Spring Rock regularly.

“After a hard workout in the summer, the other girls and I used the fountains for post-run hydration,” Sarussi said. “You need water in the summer, and we relied on the fountains.”

Conway expects people to question if replacing the fountains is necessary.  Other concerns are about safety.

“Really, I’m concerned about the lead condition of the other fountains in the park,” Sarussi said. “If it could happen so easily to those two fountains, how can we be sure that the others aren’t going to become contaminated!”

There have been problems with the water being contaminated in Western Springs before this. This instance was not related to the previous issues. The village water levels were recently inspected, as well and all of it came in under the MCL, so safe to use, Duffy said.