Chicago Sued for Possible Lead in Water

Chicago Sued for Possible Lead in Water


ChicagoOn Feb. 18, 2016, a lawsuit against the city of Chicago was filed due to the possibility of lead being present in the drinking water. The lawsuit was filed by three Chicago residents who agreed that they were not warned about the increased probability of their tap water being exposed to toxic metals from street repairs.

Three Chicago residents filed a complaint that consisted of 24 pages. In the complaint, the residents repeatedly quoted a 2013 study that was constructed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This study reported that there were high levels of lead in drinking water found in homes following construction work. The repairs stirred up the lead in old service lines. Ultimately, the tap water was contaminated. The residents claimed that although the city was aware of the magnitude of the procedure and that the construction would alter the aging water pipes, they were not advised to take precaution.

Chicago officials will be forced to replace thousands of lead pipes that connect numerous homes to the city water supply. The presence of lead has reduced water flow in homes and the damage cannot be reversed. The city water mains are not made of lead, but there are 400,000 lead service lines that connect the water mains to residences.

While Chicago is being sued for lead contaminating the tap water in various homes, Gary Litherland who represents the Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM) responded to the lawsuit. He assured citizens “the water is safe and exceeds federal, state and industry standards.” He also stated that the DWM has not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

Litherland argued that when both a water main and meter were installed the department would advise the residents to flush their service lines. He additionally stated that the city would perform the flushing for residents if requested. In response to the current concerns, the department has advised residents to run their water for several minutes, as this will thoroughly flush the pipes if water has not flowed within several hours. He suggested this could be done by flushing the toilet or running the shower. Residents are able to call 311 to request free water testing if they have additional concerns. Litherland insisted that the city requires the DWM to seal lead pipes with phosphate in order to prevent lead exposure in the drinking water.

Products That Can Reduce Lead in Water

  • Pour water through a filtered pitcher or carafe
  • Filtered Faucet mount
  • Install a counter-top filter connected to a sink faucet
  • Plumbed-in filter to separate tap or to kitchen sink
  • Reverse osmosis

Protecting Drinking Water

  • Test drinking water
  • Be informed of any construction or repairs that may disturb residential lead service lines
  • Run the water for a few moments prior to consuming
  • Use cold water
  • Purchase a water filter
  • Remove and clean faucet aerators regularly
  • Buy lead-free plumbing components and faucets
  • Remove entire lead service lines

City officials have reassured residents that the water situation in Chicago is not the same as the issue in Flint, Mich. Other cities throughout the country shifted to copper pipes or pipes made out of other metals decades ago. Nearly 80 percent of homes in Chicago have of this type of water piping. There are more lead service lines in Chicago than any other city nationwide. In contrast to other U.S. cities, Chicago is one of the only cities to still use lead service lines.

By Tricia Manalansan

Chicago Tribune: Lawsuit seeks removal of lead pipes in Chicago
Chicago Tonight: Chicago’s Lead Pipes: What You Need to Know
Image Courtesy of Molly Sabourin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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