Lead-contaminated water found citywide, what’s next?

A finding of high levels of lead in Chicago tap water, reported in an investigative study by the Chicago Tribune on April 13, has alarmed residents and led city officials to propose solutions to what is emerging as a serious and costly public health problem.
We want to get as much data as we can.” However, while the Tribune tested Chicago’s tap water to check compliance with FDA standards for bottled water of 5 parts of lead per billion, the city is held to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lead and copper rule, which is 15 ppb, according to the EPA website.
“Chicago’s water consistently meets and exceeds the U.S. EPA’s standards for clean, high-quality drinking water,” Megan Vidis, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Water Management, said in an April 19 email statement.
Preventing lead exposure is critical to improving school performance, according to a April 2015 Environmental Health Journal report.
“What’s ironic to me is that we were the last city to require the use of lead service lines up until they were banned in Chicago in 1986, but literally up until that day they were still putting them in,” said James Montgomery, an associate professor of Environmental Science at DePaul University.
The bottom line is that would be costly.” Montgomery questioned how Chicago can replace and pay for new service lines when 85 percent of homes in the city have lead pipes.
It is expensive to replace lead pipes and that cost will probably be passed on to renters, Montgomery said.
Using certified water filters for drinking water is a preventive measure, he added.
“The ultimate solution is to replace the lead pipes, but it is expensive to remove all those service lines,” Yeggy said.
“And that construction activity, including repair and replacement of the service lines, can disturb sediments that have built up in the pipes and the plumbing, and some of those sediments have high amounts of lead.” Removing the lead pipes should be a shared responsibility between property owners and the city, said Joseph Fong, president of the Association of Condominium, Townhouse and Homeowners Associations.

Learn More