Aug 26, 2022 - News

Illinois shortchanged on lead money

Illustration of hands pulling on a 100 dollar bill.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Illinois has more lead water-service lines than any other state, but the formula used to allocate federal lead removal money fails to take that into account.

Why it matters: Lead lines can leach brain-damaging toxic substances into drinking water, and Chicago's problem alone will cost billions to fix.

Last year, Illinois received just $106 million of the $15 billion earmarked for lead removal in President Joe Biden's massive infrastructure bill.

Driving the news: A group of 50 bipartisan members of Congress, including several Illinois representatives, sent a letter to EPA officials urging them to update the 2015 formula they use to allocate lead removal money.

  • Specifically, they want that $15 billion allocated according to the number of lead lines in each state.

By the numbers: Under the current formula, the seven states with 52% of the nation's lead service lines would receive just 18% of the lead removal funding, according to a survey cited in the congressional letter.

  • Another analysis by a water safety engineering firm calculated that Utah would get $1,229 per service line while Illinois would get $157.

What they're saying: We must "ensure that allocation is equitable and states with the greatest need, like Illinois, receive the necessary funds to protect our communities from the dangers of lead exposure," U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider said in a statement.

The other side: EPA officials told Axios they expect to use new lead line inventory "to inform funding allotments for FY 2023 and beyond."

  • They didn't, however, say whether all that data would be in place in time for the next batch of payments.

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