CHICAGO (CBS) — You’ve probably seen the construction: city crews replacing mile after mile of water mains.
But some homeowners tell CBS 2 that they’re alarmed by what’s happening to their water, when those crews leave.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Storms Headed Our Way After Midnight; Damaging Winds And Heavy Rain Possible
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley has been digging into reports of high levels of lead.
Three years ago, city of Chicago crews replaced the water main outside Nechami Peysin’s West Rogers Park home and something dramatically changed.
“The only thing I know is that I cannot give water to my kids,” Peysin.
The reason? High lead contamination.
Tests revealed lead levels of 9.5 parts per billion. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, anything over five parts per billion can raise levels of metal in the blood for children under seven.
Peysin is a mother of two.
“I’m really worried about the health. I know it can bring brain damage and other health issues,” said Paysin.
Chicago’s water leaves the giant Jardine Water Purification lead free. But it’s the service lines that connect water mains in the street with the individual properties that were all made of lead until 1986. That’s the primary source of lead contamination.
What’s more, EPA research shows replacing the water mains can shake loose a protective coating inside lead service pipes, increasing the possibility of contamination.
In short, replacing the only mains can actually increase lead exposure for countless of Chicagoans.READ MORE: Years After Promise Of $100,000 From State And Photo-Op Prop Check, AMVETS Post 14 In Clinton, Illinois Has Not Seen A Dime
When asked why doesn’t the city replace the service lines, as other cities, Chicago Water Commissioner Randy Conner said they’re working on it.
“Right now, currently we’re studying that to figure out exactly how much we can do. Because the city ordinance states that part of the service line belongs to the homeowner,” said Conner.
In other words, as a property owner, you’re on your own. And replacing lead service lines can cost thousands of dollars.
“Right now we think there’s probably close to 360,000 that are still active lines,” said Conner.
Plenty of cities are replacing lead service lines along with water mains, including Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit and Denver.
Nechami Peysin’s husband sued the city, arguing it’s Chicago’s obligation to do the same thing.
“Either you don’t do anything, or if you do something, you do it all the way,” said Peysin.
Peysin’s lawsuit was dismissed at trial. They’re now appealing.
The city said if you’re concerned with lead levels, call 311 and they’ll send you a water test kit for free.
Some cities also split the cost of replacing lead service lines with homeowners, or they will help pay for water filtration systems in the home to reduce lead exposure.MORE NEWS: Some Residents Say A Bears Move To Arlington Heights Would Benefit Community, Others Say It Would Bring Unwelcome Traffic And Crowds
Chicago doesn’t do that.