Chicago Transit Authority officials said today that they have temporarily halted routine maintenance work on older elevated tracks after preliminary soil tests indicated elevated levels of lead in soil underneath the Blue Line elevated structure at 18th Place. Major renovation work, such as the rebuilding of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line, will not be affected.
In February, CTA ironworkers began replacing flange angles on the structure. Flange angles are L-shaped brackets that strengthen the elevated structure and support the tracks. The CTA believes that during the removal of steel rivets from the elevated structure at 18th Place, old lead paint on the structure may have chipped off. City environmental inspectors noticed the paint chips during an inspection and recommended testing. In that location, the 'L' structure is 106 years old.
"The Department of Environment is working very closely with the CTA regarding the necessary actions to test and clean-up this site. We are confident that they are following all of the proper procedures," said Environment Commissioner Marcia Jimenez. ?We will continue to monitor this operation to ensure the safety and protection of human health and the environment."
As a precaution, the CTA and Chicago Department of Public Health officials met today with the director of the Guadalupano Family Center at 1814 S. Paulina to recommend that the 194 students enrolled in their day care and after school programs have their lead levels tested. The Department of Public Health will provide this service free of charge. The day care center is adjacent to the 'L' structure and students enrolled in the center use a sidewalk under the 'L' to access a playground located on the other side of the structure.
?Lead in the environment is something we have always taken seriously, especially when there is a possibility of children ingesting it," stated Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner John Wilhelm, M.D. ?We are taking this situation seriously and working with the CTA and the Department of the Environment to ensure that all those who may have been affected are tested promptly and receive follow-up care where appropriate."
To minimize the children's risk of exposure until tests confirm that the area is safe, day care center officials have agreed to the CTA's request to temporarily suspend use of the playground while the CTA covers the under 'L' area with asphalt. The Chicago Department of the Environment has approved the CTA's enclosure plan for that area. The CTA has also developed a clean-up plan for the playground, should one be necessary.
?We?re taking immediate steps to tackle this problem and minimize the children's risk of exposure," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?Fortunately, we were able to identify the potential risk and take action quickly to remediate it. The advice and assistance of the city's departments of Public Health and Environment made a fast response possible."
In addition, the CTA has developed an enclosure procedure for future flange angle work, which has been approved by the Department of the Environment. Employee training has begun and the CTA expects to resume maintenance work by the end of the week. The CTA already follows environmentally approved procedures when repainting structures and doing major renovation work. In addition, its ironworkers are tested for lead every six months.
"The CTA takes careful containment steps when doing major renovation work or repainting its older 'L' structures," said Kruesi. ?However, this instance has shown us that we also need to evaluate the procedures we use when doing other maintenance work, especially in older parts of the system that still have lead paint. The City has 30 years of experience in assisting with the remediation of lead and its expertise has been highly valuable."# # #