City is on track to get lead out of drinking water
We are committed to doing the work in a sustainable, environmentally sound, fiscally responsible manner that protects our residents’ health and provides a strong foundation for future growth.
The recent Sun-Times editorial on the pace of lead service line replacement demonstrated a disturbing lack of understanding about what the Chicago Department of Water Management is already doing to protect our drinking water. Since 1994, DWM has been in compliance with EPA regulations due to our use of phosphate-based corrosion control to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water. We know that it is working, based on almost 30 years of testing and research approved by the EPA.
We are committed to doing the work in a sustainable, environmentally sound, fiscally responsible manner that protects our residents’ health and provides a strong foundation for future growth. It is also very important for residents to know that lead in the ground does not automatically mean there are elevated levels of lead in your drinking water.
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Residents concerned about their water quality can simply call 311 for a completely free, independent water test. So far, 109,000 tests have been requested and we voluntarily post anonymized results at chicagowaterquality.org. Should a resident test above the federally mandated action level, DWM will send out a plumber, electrician and engineer to investigate the source and provide a customized mitigation report.
Lead is particularly dangerous for young children. It doesn’t belong in our drinking water, but we know through mandatory testing of 2- and 4-year-olds that by far, the main source of exposure comes from lead paint. Paint mitigation efforts by the Chicago Department of Public Health have reduced the number of children with elevated lead levels from one in four tested in the late 1990s to less than one in 100 today.
Innovative use of grants made it possible to build the Equity Program, which provides completely free replacements from the water main in the street all the way into the house to residents who are income qualified.
The Homeowner-Initiated Program will waive up to $5,000 in permit fees for any resident wishing to replace their line, and we have started free replacements for licensed day care centers in low-income areas.
Beginning Jan. 1, DWM will perform full lead line replacements whenever a service line has a break or leak or moved for regular water or sewer main replacements.
DWM’s 2,000 employees and their families, including mine, live in Chicago and drink the water. The stakes are incredibly high that we get it right and leave Chicago as a whole better off than when we began.
Andrea Cheng, Ph.D., P.E.
Commissioner, Chicago Department of Water Management