CN April 26 2017

If you live in Chicago, in a building that was built before 1986, it’s almost certain that you’re connected into the city water system with a lead “service pipe”. That’s the individual pipe, made entirely of lead, that snakes underground into your basement where it connects into your building’s plumbing system.

For years, the City has confidently told its residents that there’s no danger of lead migrating into the drinking water. How did they know? because they measured lead in fifty samples drawn once every three years. Does that sound unreasonable? What if you also knew that the samples were taken at the homes of water department employees and former employees? Does that make it should like a somewhat less than rigorous scientific study of an entire city?

Michael Hawthorne’s been writing about lead and city water for a long time at the Chicago Tribune, but his most recent revelation is perhaps the most disturbing of all.

He and co-author Cecilia Reyes were curious about an offer the City made a while back to provide free lead testing at any home where the owner requested it. Turns out, 2,797 households took up the offer. When the Tribune researched the results, they found that at least one home in every one of Chicago’s 77 community areas had a water supply that was bringing out-of-compliance lead levels in with the drinking water. Worse still, thirty percent of the homes tested had lead levels higher than is allowed for bottled drinking water.

Michael Hawthorne is our guest this week. We think you’ll find the descriptions of his research unsettling, especially the part about how so much of this elevated lead was apparently brought about by the city itself with questionable practices as it tries to rectify yet another infrastructure issue – the replacement of failing, leaky water mains.

You can watch the show by clicking the image above.

You can listen to the audio of this show on SoundCloud here.

Read the full transcript of this show HERE: CN transcript April 26 2018

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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