U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks with “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (WTTW News)

President Joe Biden made sweeping proposals in his address to Congress on Wednesday. Among them, a pledge to tackle lead in drinking water. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth has proposed $35 billion to update water infrastructure and improve drinking water quality across the country.

Maria del Carmen Macias was asked by the city to test the water in her Belmont Cragin home, where she offers day care. (WTTW News)

Chicago has more lead service pipes than any other U.S. city. Last year the city announced a plan to slowly replace those lines, an effort which has yet to get underway. Now, state lawmakers want to tackle the toxic problem—and they want Congress to foot the bill.

Troy Hernandez, an environmental justice activist with Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization shows a piece of lead pipe obtained from his residence during his home renovation, Friday, April 9, 2021 in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Hernandez recently spent $15,000 to replace the lead service lines bringing water into his home. (AP Photo / Shafkat Anowar)

 In the modest bungalows and two-flats of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, there’s never a shortage of needed home repairs staring residents in the face. And then there is the less obvious but more ominous problem lurking in their pipes.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

Illinois may have as much as a quarter of all lead service pipes in the country, according to U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is leading the push for a bipartisan infrastructure bill to rebuild the nation’s water systems. We discuss what else is being done to address the issue.

Randy Conner (Courtesy City of Chicago)

The resignation was announced 3 1/2 years after Randy Conner took the top job amid a furor caused by the city watchdog’s determination that the Department of Water Management was rife with “overtly racist and sexist behavior and attitudes.” 

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday unveiled a plan to replace the lead service lines responsible for contaminating the tap water in thousands of Chicago homes “over multiple decades” that relies on federal and state funds.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

City officials are putting the final touches on a plan to replace the lead service lines responsible for contaminating the tap water in thousands of Chicago homes, according to Department of Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner.

(Skitterphoto / Pixabay)

The new Clean Water Workforce Pipeline program will train workers for water-related jobs, such as those required for treating wastewater and replacing lead pipes. 

(Steve Johnson / Flickr)

Elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, have made national news, causing growing concern over water safety in Chicago. Should residents be concerned about lead levels in Chicago’s water?

(U.S. Department of Agriculture)

As urban agriculture programs expand in Chicago and other cities, a new project aims to unearth data on one of the biggest potential obstacles to city-based farming efforts: soil contamination.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wades into the murky waters of the lead pipe debate. Our politics team takes on that story and more in our weekly roundtable.

(Skitterphoto / Pixabay)

Chicago’s water meter installation program is on an indefinite hold after new data showed an increased level of lead in some metered homes.

S.H. Bell’s bulk storage facility along the Calumet River on Chicago’s Southeast Side. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon begin removing up to 2 feet of contaminated soil from as many as 15 homes near a storage facility operated by S.H. Bell, which handles manganese and other industrial materials. 

An interactive map shows results from soil sampling conducted near S.H. Bell. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Regulators plan to clean up the soil of several residential yards with high levels of brain-damaging manganese, but they have yet to finalize a plan for addressing homes with elevated levels of lead in the soil.

An overhead view of Watco's storage terminal at 2926 E. 126th St. in Chicago. (Google)

As regulators continue to monitor manganese emissions at S.H. Bell Co., new air monitoring data shows alarming levels of the brain-damaging heavy metal near another industrial facility in the area.


The city acknowledges elevated levels of lead in some homes. How concerned should Chicagoans be about the safety of their tap water?