Chicago announces new voluntary lead pipe replacement program, insists drinking water is safe

CHICAGO (WLS) – The city of Chicago says its drinking water is safe, but on Thursday announced a new plan to replace lead pipes in Chicago that could pose a risk.

There are approximately 380,000 leading service lines in the city of Chicago, primarily serving single-family and two-family homes.

ANIMATION: Chicago has the most leading service lines in the nation:

The city says it has the most leading service lines in the nation. A new initiative is now under way to replace them and reduce the risk of lead in your water.

“I want to make sure one thing is clear. The water in Chicago is safe and fully complies with all federal, state, and industry standards. However, what we’re talking about today is we’re sailing evenly.” In order to ensure the safety and health of our residents in the future, the service lines are managing our previous problem, which we must resolve immediately, “said Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference on Thursday morning.

Dr. Andrea Chang, assistant commissioner for the Department of Water Management, joined the mayor, saying, “It is also important that our plan alleviate the financial burden on Chicago citizens by taking advantage of all possible state and federal funding opportunities. Participating in These lead service line exchange programs are voluntary. “

Most homeowners would have to hire a contractor to remove the service line. Approval fees would be waived. The city would connect a new utility line and meter.

However, priority will be given to those who qualify for a program that covers all costs. You must own and live in a house and have a household income of less than $ 72,000. Your water lead concentrations must be over 15 parts per billion. a level of “action” determined by health professionals.

However, the EPA and CDC say there is no safe exposure to lead. The mayor said Chicago’s water is safe.

“We test the water all the time. That’s the primary way,” said Lightfoot. “Of course we have this incredible resource from Lake Michigan, but water levels are tested for a variety of tastes and different elements, with light being one of them. We test the water a great deal and we encourage anyone affected to have light There’s light water. There are kits that we can get, we can put filters on them, there are a lot of different things we can do, but basically we make sure the water is safe because we test it . “

In 2016, independent tests by the ABC7 I team revealed unsafe levels of lead in some public water fountains and prompted the city to shut them down.

Soon after, the Chicago Park District launched its own lead testing program and closed more wells.

RELATED: Chicago Park District Closes 15 Wells After Lead Tests

Mayor Lightfoot says the city’s current plan to remove conduits to households could cost $ 8.5 billion and could be financed from state and federal funds with a $ 2 billion deficit. She also shot back at critics who said the plan could last hundreds of years. “Our system here in Chicago is complicated, or the underground infrastructure is complicated, so it’s not a simple, easy solution. Even if we had all the resources, you can’t flip a light switch and be done. And I would hope people would understand and really educate yourself. “

The city’s Lead Line Replacement program could begin as early as January 20-21. It all depends on whether the city council passes an ordinance by the end of this year.

For more information, visit the city’s Lead Safe Chicago website.

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