Equity-Focused Lead Service Line Replacement Program Launching in Chicago

Sept. 11, 2020

Chicago's Lead Service Line Replacement Program will prioritize low-income residents 

Chicago, Illinois’ Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot launched an equity-focused lead service line replacement program.

Lightfoot joined Department of Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner and Deputy Commissioner Andrea Cheng, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and Aldermen George Cardenas and Derrick Curtis to launch the program. 

The program is designed to provide assistance to residents who want to replace their lead service lines and will prioritize those who are low-income, according to the City of Chicago website. There are approximately 380,000 lead service lines in Chicago.

“Chicago’s lead service lines are a legacy issue we need to start meaningfully confronting by moving in the right direction in a responsible way,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The new Lead Service Line Replacement Program stands as our equity-forward approach to providing residents the support they need, all while providing a foundation to continuously building on our commitment to addressing this important issue for the long term.” 

According to the city, Chicago’s drinking water is in compliance with all federal, state and industry standards for drinking water. Proposed changes to the Federal Lead and Copper Rule are expected to be released this year. 

As part of the program, the city is offering two methods of replacement: The Equity Lead Service Line Replacement Program for low-income residents and the Homeowner-Initiated Lead Service Line Replacement Program.

The Equity Lead Service Line Replacement Program will provide complete lead service line replacement for eligible low-income residents, paid in full by the city. 

Homeowners can qualify for a free full lead service line replacement if they meet all of qualifications including:    

  • Own and reside in their home;   
  • Have a household income below 80% of the area median income ($72,800 for a family of 4); and; 
  • Have consistent lead concentrations above 15 ppb in their water upon testing by the Department of Water Management.  

The Equity Lead Service Line Replacement Program will be paid for by up to $15 million in Community Development Block Grant funds in 2021, according to the city of Chicago website. There will be an ongoing application process to allow for a number of applicants to receive free lead service line replacements. 

This program requires passage of an ordinance that will be introduced to the City Council for a vote in November, added the city. The program will begin accepting applications this fall and the application will be found here.  

The Homeowner-Initiated Lead Service Line Replacement Program is for homeowners that want to hire a contractor and remove the existing lead service line on their property. The city will waive standard permit fees for the project, according to the city’s website. To qualify for the fee waiver it must be a standalone request.

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Cristina Tuser