City is on track with efforts to get lead out of drinking water

A recent Sun-Times editorial on the pace of replacement of lead service lines showed an alarming lack of understanding of what the Chicago Water Authority is already doing to protect drinking water. Since 1994, using phosphate-based corrosion controls to prevent lead leaching into drinking water, DWM complies with EPA regulations. Based on nearly 30 years of EPA-approved testing and research, we know it works.

We are committed to doing business in a sustainable, environmentally friendly and financially responsible manner that protects the health of our residents and provides a strong foundation for future growth. It is also very important for residents to know that lead in the ground does not automatically mean elevated lead levels in drinking water.

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Residents concerned about water quality can get a completely free and independent water test by simply calling 311. To date, he has had 109,000 tests ordered, with anonymized results voluntarily posted on If a resident tests beyond federally mandated action levels, DWM will dispatch plumbers, electricians, and engineers to investigate the cause and provide a customized mitigation report.

Lead is especially dangerous for young children. Although it’s not in our drinking water, forced testing of a 2-year-old and her 4-year-old found that the main source of exposure was lead paint. Paint mitigation efforts by the Chicago Public Health Department have increased the number of children whose lead levels have risen from 1 in 4 of her tested in the late 1990s to 1 in her 100 today. decreased to less than

The innovative use of subsidies has enabled the construction of an equity program that provides income-qualified residents with a completely free replacement of everything from street water mains to homes.

The homeowner-led program waives permit fees of up to $5,000 for residents who wish to have their lines replaced. It also launched a free replacement of licensed daycare centers in low-income neighborhoods.

Beginning January 1st, DWM will perform a complete lead line replacement whenever a service line has a break or leak or is moved for a routine water/wastewater main replacement.

DWM’s 2,000 employees and their families (myself included) live and drink in Chicago. The stakes are incredibly high that we do it right and leave all of Chicago in better shape than when we started.

Andrea Chen, Ph.D., PE
Commissioner, Chicago Water Management Authority

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