For years, Chicago leaders have told residents that lead is not a big issue in the city’s drinking water—even though most of the service lines bringing them water are made with lead.
Now, the city says it will test drinking water in places where kids have been found to have elevated lead levels.
WBEZ’s Marc Garber spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne about where this change in attitude is coming from.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM HAWTHORNE:
- “As recently as a month ago the city said there was no reason to test the water of homes where children have been lead poisoned because of the efforts they already do to protect our water supply by adding chemicals that add a protective coating inside our water pipes.”
- There are issues with the way the city tests for lead in water, and with the protective measures in lead service lines.
- When homes of children with elevated lead levels are inspected, about 20 percent don’t have lead-based paint (which is still the biggest source of lead exposure.) Water could be the source in those cases, but the city hasn’t actively tried to determine that until now.
- “There are still hotspots in parts of our poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, mostly poor, predominantly African American neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.”
- The EPA is recommending getting rid of lead service lines, like the city of Madison, Wisconsin has done; as well as larger education efforts around how to protect from lead exposure.