How Chicago’s lead pipe replacement plan is faring, the candidates for the city’s new police district councils and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Angela McGhee didn’t trust the purity of the water flowing from the faucets of her Chatham home. So she signed up for a city program that replaced her lead pipe connecting to a city water main.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a chance of rain and a high near 43 degrees. Similar weather is expected tonight with a low near 33. Tomorrow will also be cloudy with a high near 43.

Top story

Lightfoot’s plan to replace Chicago’s lead water pipes has switched out 280 of an estimated 390,000 service lines

Angela McGhee never trusted the tap water flowing from the faucets of her more than century-old home. 

The 50-year-old Chatham resident gets her drinking water from store-bought bottles because she suspected her tap water might contain high levels of brain-damaging lead. 

Last year, McGhee decided to look into a city of Chicago program that fully paid for the replacement of lead service lines for low-income residents. A number of her friends and neighbors are suspicious of the program, McGhee said, but she went ahead. By August, her lead line was replaced with a copper pipe.

“If we don’t have our health, we have nothing else,” she said.

McGhee, who lives with her husband, is one of only 280 Chicago homeowners who have had a lead service line — the connecting pipe between a home and water main — replaced under city-sponsored programs the past two years. That’s 280 out of an estimated 390,000 lead service lines — the most lead water lines in any city in the United States.

Lead service lines were still being installed in Chicago as recently as 1986 even though the metal’s harmful health effects were well known by then. 

Now, beginning in January, the city will be required under state law to replace lead service pipes every time there is a break or leak in a water line. That will force the city to replace what’s estimated will be at least 4,000 lead lines a year, perhaps 5,000. Any city residents with a break or leak in a water service line should call 311. The new law means Chicago will finally begin to see more progress on replacing the lead lines. To pay for a large portion of the program, city officials say they will close soon on a low-interest loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $336 million over five years. 

Despite lead having been detected in the water in homes across the city, Chicago complies with federal law. The EPA has set a level of 15 parts per billion as a maximum for drinking water from public utilities.

Two years ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a relatively small pilot program that would begin with 600 lead service line replacements paid by the city for residents who qualified based on income and other requirements. 

While most of the lead lines replaced in Chicago were removed through the equity program that McGhee took part in, the number fell well short of the city’s goal. There were just 225 equity program participants. Other replacements were done through additional programs, including one paid for entirely by homeowners. 

Brett Chase has more on the city’s attempts to replace lead lines here.

More news you need

  1. A Buffalo Grove man killed his mother, wife and two young daughters before stabbing himself to death last week, police announced today. Andrei Kisliak, his wife Vera Kisliak, his mother Lilia Kisliak and his daughters, 4 and 6, were all found dead from “sharp force injuries,” officials have said.
  2. With 122 candidates vying for 66 vacancies on Chicago’s new police district councils, there are many factors driving the desire to join the experiment of civilian oversight of the Police Department. Most appear to fall into two major camps: Police supporters determined to remove what they see as limitations on officers, and those who say CPD has victimized communities of color and, therefore, don’t trust police. Our Fran Spielman talks with some of the candidates here.
  3. Got questions about district police councils? Fran breaks down what they are, what they do and other major points you should know here.
  4. Two bridges over the Kennedy Expressway closed during the massive Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction have reopened, one on Jackson Boulevard and the other on Adams Street. Both bridges are wider with two travel lanes and 10-foot-wide sidewalks, along with a dedicated bike lane on the Jackson Boulevard bridge, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
  5. A dispute is growing between Northwestern University and residents in Evanston over plans to improve Ryan Field, a stadium that sits in an area of large single-family homes. One key issue is that the school wants to start using the venue for full-capacity concerts. Our David Roeder has more on the future of Ryan Field here.

A bright one

World Cup brings together Southwest Side elementary schoolers: ‘We needed this’

As part of their teachers’ efforts to engage them, students at Nathanael Greene Elementary in McKinley Park have adopted a new country to study and follow throughout the World Cup

“A lot of our families are Latino, and at home, they’re watching the World Cup. This is a way for us to start a conversation with them and make a connection,” said Adriana Kenning, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher spearheading the program.

Classes at the school adopted their countries the day before the games started. Lorena Grajeda, the homeroom teacher for Santos’ class, selected Qatar. Her students have focused on fun facts about the country to share with the rest of the school.

All 300 or so students also attended a soccer showdown between teachers and students in the school gymnasium. Some students had their faces painted and held posters to support their schoolmates, making for the first all-school assembly since the pandemic began.

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Students at Nathanael Greene Elementary School face off with their teachers in a soccer game in the schools gym last Friday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The teachers won the first match against a squad of 3rd and 4th graders but went into the game against 5th graders winded. Jonathan Dominguez led the small-statured underdogs to a 1-0 miracle on hardwood.

Manuela De La Cruz, an assistant who helps with Grajeda’s class, smiled from the sidelines as the children screamed in support.

“After everything that we’ve been through with COVID and lockdown, we needed this,” said the 10-year veteran of the school. “We needed this boost, the camaraderie of having everyone together.”

Michael Loria has more with Nathanael Greene Elementary here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

Say you’re making a documentary set in Chicago. What — or who — is your film about? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: What’s one holiday season tradition that is uniquely Chicago?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Marshall Fields, the Christmas tree and eating in the Walnut Room.” — Bernard Graczyk

“Thirty-nine years of The Music Box showings of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I have wonderful memories of watching the family’s children who always sat in front of us grow up. We so enjoyed singing with the organ playing Santa and creating a beautiful tradition!” — Candy Helen

“Lunch under the big tree in the Walnut Room.” — Jo Ann Reksel

“My family STILL plays ‘Hardrock, Coco and Joe.’ It was played every year on Bozo and Garfield Goose and Friends, and my sister got a 45 record of the song years later from Polk Brothers! You can find the original version on YouTube, too.” — Jill Anderson

“The Christmas tradition that is uniquely Chicago is the gifting of Frango Mints. While technically one could order them from Macy’s now, anywhere in the country, this originally-from-Marshall-Fields treat will always be associated with the State Street MF & Co store, including a visit to the Walnut Room, the store Christmas tree, and a few minutes with Santa. My grandmother gave boxes to every member of my family, and now I carry on that tradition. It’s the one thing Macy’s hasn’t managed to erase from that hallowed retail palace.” — Alicia M.

“The Christmas train.” — Renee Runyon-Truss

“The special Christmas around the world at MSI. The decorations at Christmas are great.” — Janet Lewis-Warhover

“The wreaths around the lions’ necks at the Art Institute.” — Dee Hurley

“The lighting of the Mag mile, Christkindle holiday market and Zoo lights at Lincoln Park.” — Gregg R. McClure Sr.

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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