CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago leads the nation with more lead water service lines than any other city, 409,000 of them, and must replace them all. The Chicago Department of Public Health said the majority of children who test with high blood lead levels are on the South and West Sides.
A new proposed EPA rule says lead lines around the country should be replaced in 10 years, but gives Chicago at least 40 years to get the job done due to the sheer volume.
Childcare provider Jamila Wilson just had the lead water line to her home daycare in Austin replaced by the city. She said no time can be wasted because of the neurological, fertility and cardiac health risks to kids and adults.
"That makes me not only think of the children and families that I serve but my own family as well," she said.
Chicago Water Commissioner Andrea Cheng said they just complete replacement of their 100th daycare lead service line.
"Those first 100, it may not sound like a lot, but they served 2,200 children," Cheng said.
Alderman Gilbert Villegas said the city needs to work to double the amount of lead pipes that can be replaced per year from 10,000 to 20,000 a year or more.
"We need to figure out what we're going to do as a council to find a revenue stream while we're waiting for the state and federal government who has a track record of not stepping up on this issue," Villegas said. "Given that 30-plus years we've been waiting for this, I think we're going to have to figure this out on our own."
The water department said it's replaced more than 4,200 lead service lines since the program started in 2021. Some of the issues still on the table include scheduling labor and consistent funding sources to replace all lines, which could cost as much as $12 billion.