January 01, 2018

The Aftermath of Flint: Lead Testing in Chicago’s Day Cares and Schools

Maris J. Jager

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, many states, cities, and municipalities in the United States are entering an era of renewed attention and focus on the condition and safety of their drinking water infrastructure. This new outlook on drinking water safety is compounded by the fact that the water infrastructure of many major U.S. cities has been in place since the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century. These century-old pipes, which carry drinking water to millions of homes, are deteriorating and rapidly reaching the end of their useful life. As these pipes age and population centers grow denser, many cities are reaching the point where their water infrastructure must be updated or replaced. These changes usher in what the American Water Works Association (AWWA) has described as an era of replacement—in fact, the AWWA estimates that it will cost approximately $1 trillion over the next 25 years to replace or restore existing aged water systems and to expand those systems to meet the need of a growing population. These needs are further exacerbated by a rising awareness of and focus on lead detection in the drinking water of major metropolitan areas. The crisis in Flint acted as a catalyst for this growing concern, turning many states’ focus to the health and safety of the most vulnerable populations. In the aftermath of Flint, many states are implementing new procedures and guidelines that encourage schools and day care facilities to test their drinking water for safe lead levels. Illinois, along with New Jersey and New York, are at the forefront of this growing national trend, and exemplify necessary safety standards and remedial activities that should be adopted nationwide.

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