Elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, have made national news, causing growing concern over water safety in Chicago.
Mayor Lightfoot has suspended the city’s water meter installation program after samples showed higher lead levels in homes where a water meter had been recently added. Research has shown that lead levels can increase for many months, even years, if water service lines are impacted by road construction or underground plumbing repairs, including the addition of a water meter.
Below, a Q&A with three key players when it comes to Chicago’s water quality: Andrea Holthouse Putz, deputy commissioner of water supply for the Chicago Department of Water Management; Dr. Allison Arwady, chief medical officer and acting commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health; and Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council.
Should we be concerned about lead levels in Chicago’s water?
Arwady: Chicago’s water is safe. We shouldn’t be alarmed. We’re very different from Newark. Chicago’s water continues to meet and exceed federal lead level limits. Newark was constantly exceeding those limits and also had a problem with inefficient corrosion control.
Are there similarities between the situation in Newark and what’s happening in Chicago?
Walling: Instead of Newark, I like to think of Chicago as being similar to Michigan. We are not in an emergency situation yet, but like Michigan, we have lot of old lead service lines that were installed before they were outlawed in 1986. Michigan passed a ruling that all lead service lines must be replaced within 20 years. In Wisconsin, if you replace a water main, you have to replace the lead service lines that are attached to the water main. Not the case in Illinois.
The Illinois Environmental Council has been working on […]