CHICAGO (CBS) —  Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the start of a project that will involve replacing lead lines in the city and new meters free of charge.

Called the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, it’s for voluntary residents who want to replace lead service lines. The city said low income residents will be a priority in terms of service.

“Chicago’s lead service lines are a legacy issue we need to start meaningfully confronting by moving in the right direction in a responsible way,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The new Lead Service Line Replacement Program stands as our equity forward approach to providing residents the support they need, all while providing a foundation to continuously building on our commitment to addressing this important issue for the long term.”

The mayor said Chicago’s drinking water is “in compliance with all federal, state and industry standards for drinking water.” The city estimates there are anywhere from 380,000 to 400,000 lead service lines in Chicago. They are mainly in single-family and two-flat residences.

There are two types of replacement methods offered by the city. The first is the  Equity Lead Service Line Replacement Program for low-income residents and then there’s the  Homeowner Initiated Lead Service Line Replacement Program.

The program will start in 2021 and have several phases of implementation.

Homeowners can qualify for a free full lead service line replacement if they meet the following qualifications:

*Own and reside in their home

*Have a household income below 80% of the area median income ($72,800 for a family of 4)

*Have consistent lead concentrations above 15 ppb in their water, as tested by the city’s Department of Water Management.

“I want to be clear that undoing the extent to service lines is a steep and costly mountain that we will need to climb. But, and we will not erase this legacy overnight, but is way past time for us as a city to address this issue,” Lightfoot said.

The exact amount was not listed but said that it will start with $15 million from community development block grants. The program requires passage of a city ordinance that’ll be introduced to the City Council for a vote in November.

If passed, the program will accept applications in the fall. Click here for more information on the program and the application process. 

“We’ll certainly be looking to the state where there’s been active consideration of lead low risk service line replacement as well as funding from the federal government,” said the mayor.

When asked about whether it’s too little, too late, the mayor said it needs to be handled as soon as possible.

“This has been a problem for a long time. That has never been addressed. Since 1986, when we stop forcing homeowners to install lead service lines. It’s way past time for us to do something about it. We invite anybody who thinks that they’ve got the greatest and the best idea to share that with the working group members, but we have to start climbing this hill, and we’re doing that today.”