Policy Watch

Getting the lead out

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The health of families across Illinois will benefit from the passage of landmark legislation mandating the replacement of all toxic lead service lines delivering drinking water to homes.

Lead in water lines has posed a health and environmental threat for decades, especially to children. At one time, lead water pipes were required. Most have not been removed, even after Congress banned installation of lead pipes in 1986.

The new law, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign, provides for state grants and technical assistance to support utilities in replacing the lines. The program will prioritize communities at highest risk, based on an analysis by the Metropolitan Planning Council, a Joyce Foundation grantee, showing that Black and Latino communities are twice as likely to be exposed as white communities.

Among remaining concerns is who will pay – state lawmakers are hoping federal stimulus funds can be used, which would speed up the work. Chicago was given a lengthy timeline of 50 years to accomplish the task, though city officials say they hope to get the job done sooner. Smaller utilities will get 15 years, some larger systems 34.

To learn more, click on this news release from the Illinois Environmental Council. Among other Joyce grantees advocating for the law are Elevate, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

You can read the bill here.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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Getting the lead out

Illinois lawmakers mandate that utilities replace toxic lead water lines, a decades old threat. New legislation provides for state grants and technical assistance and prioritizes communities at highest risk–Black and Latino.