City Push to Replace 400,000 Lead Service Line Dropouts at 74: Data | Chicago News
City crews have replaced just 74 of the nearly 400,000 lead service lines responsible for contaminating Chicago residents’ tap water in the 19 months after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it It was “way past due” to make sure Chicagoans had clean water in their homes, according to data obtained by WTTW News.
Department of Water Management Commissioner Andrea Cheng said during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing chaired by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) that took place Thursday at the Shedd Aquarium that city officials remain committed to removing all lead service lines. in Chicago.
The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill approved in November 2021 includes $15 billion to fund mainline service line replacement efforts and $3 billion slated to flow to states and cities in 2022. Biden administration’s plan calls for all major service lines to be cut within a decade. It would cost $45 billion.
“Lead pipes are a health crisis in our country,” Duckworth said. “We need to figure out how to replace these pipes fairly and efficiently.”
Cheng said the federal funding will “jumpstart” Chicago’s efforts to cut major service lines, but acknowledged that logistical challenges have meant the program has failed to deliver what Lightfoot promised in September 2020, when she swore the city would remove 650 pipes by the end of 2021.
Despite these hurdles, federal funding gives Chicago “an opportunity to make real, meaningful, and equitable progress,” Cheng said.
Lead service lines connect more Chicago homes to water lines than any other U.S. city, largely because authorities have mandated that lead pipes be used to carry water to single-family homes and small apartment buildings for nearly a century.
Federal law banned the use of lead pipes in 1986.
There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, according to federal authorities. Lead is a neurotoxin and can be particularly harmful to children and pregnant women.
City officials estimate it will cost between $15,000 and $26,000 to remove lead utility lines from every home or apartment in Chicago, or $8.5 billion in total.
In September 2020, Lightfoot said the city would begin removing lead service lines from homes and two apartments in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods with $15 million in federal grants.
But that program was slow to get off the ground, and only 54 households that qualified for the effort had their primary service line removed, according to Department of Water Management data obtained by WTTW News.
City officials received a total of 886 applications for the program, but only 262 were approved, according to data obtained by WTTW News.
Under another program, owners willing to foot the entire bill for the lead service line replacement program can get $3,500 in fees waived if they do the removal themselves.
Twenty homes had their lead service lines removed under the program, according to data obtained by WTTW News.
Cheng also told the committee that his department was still evaluating the best method to replace lead service lines along an entire block.
This will minimize construction disruption and save money, Cheng said.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]