Bad water bills aren’t Chicago’s only problem – Many residents drink lead-laden water – CBS Chicago

Chicago (CBS) – If there is one thing we have Get the series Hosted We know, Chicagoans are paying thousands of dollars for bad water bills.

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But these billing errors aren’t the only problem in Chicago — it has nearly 400,000 service lines that lead to lead contamination.

However, Mayor Lori Ligfoot insists the water is safe.

“The water we’re pushing is pure and good,” Lightfoot said at a press conference in May.

pure and good? Over the years, viewers have reached out to CBS 2 investigators concerned about high levels of lead in their drinking water.

Even elected officials have taken note of this persistent issue.

“Some neighborhoods have six times the level of lead poisoning,” former state Senator Heather Staines said. “And every one of these neighborhoods is extremely poor, and nearly every one is disproportionately African-American.”

But Lightfoot insists the water in Chicago is safe.

“Where do they get that from?” asked Daniel Wasserman.

Mr. Wasserman is an elderly citizen who lives on the south side and pays a portion of his fixed income for leaded water.

“The idea that I’m paying that much money for polluted water is not entirely compatible,” he said.

Even low levels of lead are harmful to your brain, heart, kidneys, and more. Under the lead and copper rule, federal law allows for lead concentrations of up to 15 parts per billion. But most research, Including from the Environmental Protection AgencyHe says there is no acceptable amount of lead.

Wasserman’s water lead levels were checked by the Chicago Free Testing Program. The process requires homeowners to take three samples of their tap water. The first drawing is done on the spot, the second drawing is taken between two to three minutes, and the third sample in five minutes.

“My numbers were 24 on one drawing and 40 on another,” Mr. Wasserman said.

Twenty-four and 40 both exceeded the federal statutory limit of 15 and countless above the zero recommendation from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Wasserman is not alone. In 2020, 64.4 percent of Chicagoans who had this voluntary lead test were found to have lead in their water.

City All test results are publicly published on water quality website, but CBS 2 investigators learned that this data may not be a true representation of lead levels in Chicago.

Although Wasserman’s lead samples were taken over a year ago, they have not yet been published on this website.

How does lead end up in drinking water? Like many Chicagoans, Mr. Wasserman’s home has a mains service line, which means the pipe that brings water to his home is made of lead. Chicago has 387,096 major service lines – far more than any other American city.

Most major cities such as Boston, Detroit, and New York stopped installing lead pipes in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the dangers of lead pipes were well known, Chicago did not ban lead pipes until 1986, when the federal government finally banned it.

Furthermore, from an economic point of view, lead pipes must be replaced during major water repairs to cut costs. Mayor Ram Emmanuel Replacing 700 miles of water main, But there were no lead tubes during his tenure, passing the responsibility on to his successor.

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In September 2020, Lightfoot announced the release of Main Service Line Replacement Program, which will replace major service lines free of charge to eligible homeowners. The program was supposed to start that fall, but applications didn’t open until March 2021.

Due to strict application requirements, which discouraged many homeowners from applying, the city expanded the program to include any single-family or two-apartment home with children under 18 and incomes less than $74,550.

The program promised to replace 600 lines by the end of the year. So far, the city has replaced six — just one percent of its year-end target. And there are still 387,090 lines to go.

“When you hear that number, what do you think?” CBS2 investigator Brad Edwards asked Karim Adeem, director of the Department of Water and Sewerage in Newark, New Jersey.

When I hear that number I say, ‘Wow! And ‘wow,’ said Adeem.

Newark compared to Chicago is Shangri-La Water.

“We had the willpower to exceed the expectations of others,” Adeem said.

In January of 2019, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued its fourth formal overriding standard action letter to Newark, prompting the city to take action.

To help fund the replacement program, Newark received $120 million in bonds from the Essex County Improvement Authority.

To further speed up the replacement process, its city council ordained allowing the city to replace pipes without the owner’s consent. This ordinance was crucial because 74 percent of Newark residents rent, and as a result, the city no longer had to track down landlords for permission to remove major service lines.

During this process, Newark was replacing over 100 lines per day. So far, the city has replaced 21,000 known driving lines and tested 7,000 other drugs to confirm Their lines have previously been replaced by homeowners, a new property has been built or the structure is no longer there.

In the end, Newark was free of lead pipes in less than 30 months.

In addition to being lead-free, Newark also has zero unrestricted accounts.

Chicago, on the other hand, has 180,000 unrestricted properties that are calculated on guesswork estimates rather than actual water use.

Does it surprise you that a city like Chicago has 180,000 unaccounted properties that are counted on guesswork estimates? ‘ asked Edwards Adem.

Adeem replied, “This amount is surprising.” “I so far There is certainly a great explanation for that.”

The only huge thing is the amount we save to consumers on every unrestricted bill we look at.

And when we ask how the bills are so inflated, interviews are declined and we are asked to submit public records requests for basic questions.

One of the public records requests we sent back in March has yet to be returned, even though the Water Department only has 10 business days to legally respond.

Newark officials believe the presence of lead in its waters is unacceptable in 2021 — which is why it has found an effective solution to replace its lead lines.

Chicago’s solution to Mr. Wasserman’s lead contamination? They gave him a water filter.

“There is no excuse for that,” Mr. Wasserman said.

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Chicago still doesn’t understand: water is a human right and a human need.


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