(AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)
About $1.7 billion of the federal infrastructure bill is directed to Illinois to fix lead pipelines in the state, part of a $45 billion total to fix the problem nationwide . Many Illinois still receive drinking water through pipes made of toxic lead. Brian Jack, president-elect of the American Water Works Association of the Illinois Chapter and superintendent of utilities for the Village of Lombard, said it was important to fix them.
“Water is life – no one can live without water,” he told the Illinois Radio Network. “We only have a certain amount of water on this planet and this bill will ensure that we continue to provide safe drinking water for everyone.”
Illinois has the most lead service lines in the country, Jack said.
“There are just under 700,000, with the majority of them in the city of Chicago,” he said.
He adds that there are more than 700,000 additional pipes containing unknown materials, bringing the total to more than 1.4 million pipes that potentially release lead into drinking water. Lead can cause serious problems for people, especially children.
“It will increase the risk of birth defects, learning disabilities, it hinders the growth of young children,” Jack said.
The ill effects of lead are now known, and lead pipes were banned in the state in the 1980s, but lead service lines in many places have not been replaced. Older communities like Chicago, Rockford and Peoria have the highest concentration of lead pipes, Jack said. One of the reasons the lead pipes have not been replaced is that the process is so expensive, he said. Utilities are responsible for much of that – down to the sidewalk – in which case homeowners have to pay for the rest. Coordinating the replacement is also difficult because all the pipes have to be replaced at the same time, Jack explained, pointing out that it is worse to replace only part of the line because it will disturb the left wire.
“Funding this bill will give the utility money to pay for the full portion of the connection to the house so it’s not an additional burden on homeowners,” he said. declared.
Replacing the roughly 1.4 million lead service lines in the state is a daunting task; the one that Jack is still unsure of will be covered by the funding.
“It depends on what the final bill will look like – hopefully there will be enough money to cover everything,” he said.
For residents who still have lead drains, he suggests flushing your drains every morning to avoid drinking water that has been sitting in the drains and might have a higher lead concentration.