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“Chicago has more lead on average than Flint, Mich., during its 2015 water crisis”

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* WBEZ has a story about a tap water study done on the city’s South Side by Virginia Tech researchers

But the tests also showed another disturbing trend: Lead levels in many homes got higher as the water ran for up to three minutes.

In fact, the study found that after three minutes of running water, Chicago has more lead on average than Flint, Mich., during its 2015 water crisis. […]

“(T)the Chicago Department of Water Management continues to advise residents with lead service lines or fixtures to flush their water for five minutes every time their water has been stagnant for six hours or more,” Water Department spokeswoman Megan Vidis wrote in an email to WBEZ.

About 80% of Chicago homes — mostly those built before 1987— have lead service lines connected to their homes. Researchers suspect the reason lead levels rise after running the water for around three minutes is because that is when the water that has been sitting in lead service lines reaches the tap.

Who flushes their water lines for five minutes?

* More

In response to the findings, Vidis noted the city of Chicago consistently meets “U.S. EPA standards for drinking water of 15 parts per billion.” […]

[Marc Edwards, who led the U.S. Water Study Research Team doing the tests for the study] said this low bar is unacceptable, in part because his study and others indicate that the first liter out of the tap is often much lower in lead than the water that follows.

“Everyone knows the Lead and Copper rule is not sufficiently protective and this is just a loophole — some even call it the Chicago loophole,” Edwards said. “The first [liter] draw seems low whereas the normal water people drink tends to be higher. Maybe this loophole will be closed when the new Lead and Copper rules are announced.”

Aside from causing brain damage, lead exposure has been connected to increased violent behavior.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

24 Comments
  1. - Rahm’s House - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    After Flint broke, you should have seen Rahm’s plan of action at the schools. College students on break were sent in to collect samples.

    Someday a book will be written about all of the things the smartest guy in the room did that were wrong, stupid and criminal.


  2. - A guy - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:10 am:

    I spoke to a contractor who shared that efficiency toilets (only using one gallon/flush vs. five) less hose usage contributes to significantly lower water movement in residences in the past decade. It sounded nuts to me until now.


  3. - Been There - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:14 am:

    ===Who flushes their water lines for five minutes?===
    Looks like I should change my routine and not brush my teeth first thing. Take a shower first I guess. And at least a five minute one.


  4. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:15 am:

    “Aside from causing brain damage, lead exposure has been connected to increased violent behavior.”

    The academic literature on the relationship between prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations and antisocial behavior is rather extensive:
    https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C14&as_vis=1&q=%22lead+poisoning%22+and+crime&btnG=

    – MrJM


  5. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:23 am:

    You cannot sell a house if Radon tests over 4 ppm. How can these more dangerous houses be sold, or rented?


  6. - Back to the Future - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:24 am:

    What a monumental failure of State and Chicago governments.


  7. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    If communities would stop making corrosive water (i.e. add lime or caustic soda) we would not have these problems.


  8. - cover - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    = “Aside from causing brain damage, lead exposure has been connected to increased violent behavior.” =

    Makes you wonder if this is (at least part of) why Chicago has a considerably higher murder rate than New York City.


  9. - P - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:27 am:

    Where are our members of Congress on bringing home some money to begin to fix this problem??


  10. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    Chicago has a big loophole in its lead ordinance: landlords only have to notify current or prospective tenants of lead if it’s tested in that very apartment. So if lead is found in the neighboring apartment, the landlord has a strict duty to abate the lead in it, but not places where he/she is 99% confident there’s lead.


  11. - Amalia - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    Megan Vidis. Blast from the past.


  12. - DuPage - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    They need to “get the lead out” about getting the lead out.


  13. - CubsFan16 - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    Why has this not blown up yet? This is a crisis, and has been for some time. If Chicago lead levels are worse than Flint, shouldn’t somebody be pressing the panic button?

    Bueller?


  14. - Bad juju - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 12:05 pm:

    Chicago required lead pipes in service lines in the plumbing code until the Federal ban went into effect. Lead lines after the meter are treated as the customers plumbing and not part of the municipal water system. Corrosion control is a band aid it’s purpose is to minimize the risk of the lead in the system. Removing the lead in the system is the only actual fix. Of course that’s expensive to do so areas with people who don’t have a lot of extra cash get stuck.


  15. - lakeside - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 12:05 pm:

    The irony of them now asking us to flush our water for at least five minutes (so wasteful) is that a bunch of this problem was caused by the project that included the installation of the water meters…. which now charge us for how much water we use. So now I’ve got more lead and I have to pay extra for the wasteful ‘remedy.’

    I got a test kit the other week. I haven’t sent it back in yet; I’m afraid it’s going to be very bad.


  16. - Edmund - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    EPA standard is less than 15 parts per billion:
    -South Chicago average is 12 parts per billion (for highest draw)
    -Flint average was 27 parts per billion (for highest draw)

    Thus: Flint exceeded standard, Chicago does not


  17. - Rutro - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    I got a test kit, they called and said I did it wrong, said they would send me another kit (they didn’t), a week later a free filter showed up on my porch. Sad. Only use filtered water now. We have direct access to one of the greatest fresh water supply in the world and the city screws it up.


  18. - JP Altgeld - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    @Rahm’s House

    Rahm is/was the smartest guy in the room in very few rooms. Perhaps an airplane lavatory, a Japanese capsule hotel or a room of labrador puppies (assuming they are less than 14 weeks of age).


  19. - sulla - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 1:01 pm:

    “Lead lines after the meter are treated as the customers plumbing and not part of the municipal water system.”

    This. Service lines are the property owner’s responsibility and it costs a couple of grand to replace one. This issue is particularly tough on renters, whose landlords may not have the same urgency as the tenant to remedy the problem.


  20. - Back to the Future - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 1:22 pm:

    Stopped in a restaurant in the financial district. Waitress came by and asked if I wanted water. I said “Not today”.


  21. - SpfdNewb - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 1:39 pm:

    -Makes you wonder if this is (at least part of) why Chicago has a considerably higher murder rate than New York City.-

    I was thinking this as well. Also, a lot of buildings in NYC are newer, compared to Chicago, because NYC tore down a lot of derelict housing in the 70s and 80s. There could be correlation to this.


  22. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 2:02 pm:

    ==(only using one gallon/flush vs. five)==

    Still sounds nuts to me A Guy. :)


  23. - Driveby - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    Rich, good work flagging this. Horrible. And it looks like the city has been advising people to do the opposite of what they should be doing.


  24. - Father Ted - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 3:50 pm:

    “Who flushes their water lines for five minutes?”

    Clearly, you don’t have a toddler in your home… (wink)


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