Apr 6, 2023 - News

Illinois to get more lead removal money

Lead pipe

A lead pipe being removed from a home in Gary, Indiana. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Illinois will get an extra $143 million for lead water line removal this year in the wake of new changes to the federal funding formula that now take into account how bad the lead problem is in each state.

Why it matters: Illinois has the highest inventory of toxic lead lines in the nation, but the state was receiving a smaller share of the federal funding than states with fewer problems.

  • That's because the Environmental Protection Agency has been using an outdated formula that didn't consider states' current needs.
  • The change comes after months of bipartisan pressure from lawmakers, including Rep. Brad Schneider, who told Axios, β€œIt's unacceptable that all Americans do not have access to safe drinking water without fear of dangerous lead exposure.”

State of play: With the new funding bump, the state expects $230 million from the program in total this year.

Zoom in: As of a few months ago, the City of Chicago had replaced fewer than 300 lead lines out of 390,000 that the city had forced homeowners to install as part of the building code until 1986.

What's next: The increased federal money should help the effort along with a new mayor whose platform says he will "fight for every federal dollar to rapidly replace the lead service lines in the city, as efficiently as possible."

Reality check: Then-candidate Lori Lightfoot made similar promises on the 2019 campaign trail. Here's hoping the work goes faster this time.


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