For years, city officials claimed that an estimated 400,000 lead service lines connecting homes to the water main were not a serious issue.
Chicago is gearing up to release a plan to remove and replace all of the city’s lead water lines.
According to Chicago water commissioner Randy Conner, the city will release its plan in the coming weeks, reported WBEZ.
Data shows high levels of lead in the water of some city homes, as well as inadequate testing procedures to track lead in Chicago water, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“No one else has the number of lead service lines we have,” said Conner. “We have approximately 400,000 of those lead service lines that we’ll be looking to replace, and so it is a daunting task.”
This project may cost between $8 and $10 billion to complete.
According to water department officials, the lead line replacement would be voluntary, so homeowners would need to opt in, reported WBEZ. City rules made lead lines mandatory for every home until 1986, which is when they were outlawed nationally.
“We are quite sure we will be able to put a program together that will be satisfactory to the citizens of Chicago because, as always, our big concern is water quality and safety of the water program,” Conner added.
An April 2018 Tribune analysis revealed that lead was found in water samples drawn from nearly 70% of the 2,797 homes that returned free testing kits.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the installation of water meters in Chicago homes to stop in July 2019 once city officials found elevated levels of lead in more than one in five metered homes tested. This decision came 13 months after officials learned of the issue.
Chicago has $5 million set aside for a pilot program, according to Budget Director Susie Park, reported WTTW news.