Lead in Our Water
The lead issue in Chicago stems from the service pipes that connect residents’ homes and buildings to the municipal main lines. Prior to 1986, the City of Chicago required new constructions to install lead service lines. This practice changed when the federal government banned the use of lead in pipes that convey drinking water. As a result, Chicago has the most remaining lead service lines compared to any other city in the country.
Other cities including Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, and St. Paul have instituted programs or set aside funding to provide property owners with options for replacing their lead service lines. Chicago, on the other hand, has embarked on a massive replacement of main lines throughout the city, but has not set aside any funds for lead service line replacement. At the same time, the EPA has conducted studies showing that street construction, including main line replacement, disrupts the anti-corrosion chemicals added to the water, leading to increased levels of lead for weeks to months after the construction.
Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin that the EPA says should not be consumed in any amount. Even at low levels previously thought safe, it can lead to long term brain damage, behavioral disorders, and stagnated intellectual development in children. Yet, 70% of the 2,797 buildings that have been voluntarily tested by residents and submitted to the Department of Water management in the last two years tested positive for lead. 30% of those buildings had lead levels higher than the FDA’s standard for bottled water.
The City of Chicago needs a plan to deal with this issue. There are many options used by other cities that could be enacted here. Help us call on our Mayor and City Council to find a solution.
In the News
Chicago Tribune Investigation April 2018 - Brain-damaging lead found in tap water in hundreds of homes tested across Chicago, results show
Chicago Tribune Letter to the Editor April 2018 - Chicago endangers its citizens with old lead service lines
Loyola Phoenix April 2018 - Some Rogers Park Residents Tests Positive for Lead
WBEZ Chicago Curious City Podcast July 2018 - What Officials Are(n't) Doing About Chicago’s Lead Pipes
Chicago Sun-Times July 2018 - Vallas, Green warn Chicago faces Flint-style drinking water crisis
Chicago Tribune February 2016 - City fails to warn Chicagoans about lead risks in tap water
Chicago Tribune February 2016 - Chicago often tests water for lead in homes where risk is low
Chicago Tribune Editorial May 2016 - Should Chicago rip out those lead water pipes?
Chicago Tribune September 2016 - As other cities dig up pipes made of toxic lead, Chicago resists