CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan on Thursday to tout President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan, as the city seeks to ramp up replacement of hundreds of thousands of lead pipes that connect homes to the city’s water system.
Last year, the city launched a $15 million pilot program to replace lead service lines in about 600 homes, mostly in low-income neighborhoods in homes with high lead levels. But that will barely make a dent in the problem, with nearly 400,000 homes In Chicago that still have lead service lines.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Storms Headed Our Way After Midnight; Damaging Winds And Heavy Rain Possible
“Replacing all these lines is a huge task. We all understand that. A huge task with an enormous price tag, making it a key obstacle in our overachieving mission to modernizing our infrastructure, but we owe it to our residents to begin the work, and that’s exactly what we did,” Lightfoot said.
The city required homes to use lead service lines until Congress banned the practice in 1986, and hundreds of thousands have yet to be replaced, leaving Chicago with the most lead service lines in the U.S.
The mayor joined Regan on Thursday morning at the city’s Jardine Water Purification Plant, the largest of its kind in the world, to stump for President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan, which would include $111 billion to upgrade water infrastructure nationwide.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
“Every single one of those dollars that come to Chicago means that we’re putting people to work to help our residents,” Lightfoot said.
Regan said the goal is to replace all of the lead water pipes in the U.S.
While it’s unclear exactly how much the city might get from the Biden infrastructure plan to help replace its lead service lines, Lightfoot and Regan both said federal funding is needed to help the city do just that.
“This goal cannot be accomplished alone, much less without the collaboration of leaders from all levels of government,” Lightfoot said.MORE NEWS: Some Residents Say A Bears Move To Arlington Heights Would Benefit Community, Others Say It Would Bring Unwelcome Traffic And Crowds
“Together we can put Americans to work while eliminating this devastating public health threat, and delivering environmental justice to communities that have for far too long borne the brunt of pollution,” Regan said.