(The Center Square) – Replacing Illinois’ miles of lead service pipes may now become a reality.
Lawmakers have approved the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act and sent it to the governor for his signature.
Congress banned the installation of lead service lines in 1986, but most installed before then were never removed. At least 686,000 pipes, about one-eighth of all lead lines in the country, remain in Illinois.
The Lead Service Replacement and Notification Act would not only require replacement of lead service lines, but would also establish a state grant program and technical assistance to support utilities in the project.
“We’ve known for decades that no amount of lead is safe to consume, yet lead service lines persist in counties across our state, posing a serious threat to public health,” said Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, the bill’s sponsor.
Bush said there is $4 billion for lead replacement moving through Congress through the LIFT Act, and an additional $45 billion in President Biden’s proposal to support this work. She said there are also significant resources through the CARES Act.
According to the Metropolitan Planning Council, replacing all lead lines in the state would lead to an investment of $5.5 billion to $14 billion.
Justin Williams with the Metropolitan Planning Council believes the project would create thousands of jobs.
“Replacing lead service lines is an investment with some pretty profound economic returns, for every million dollars invested, estimates is that it creates about 16 jobs,” Williams said.
State Sen. Jason Barrickman, R-Bloomington, is concerned downstate communities will be adversely affected.
“The reality is for many of our downstate smaller communities, this is another mandate that they will have to fulfill,” Barrickman said.
Research from the Metropolitan Planning Council shows Black and Brown people in Illinois are twice as likely to live in areas with lead pipes than their white counterparts.
“This bill will require that lead service lines are replaced regardless of residents’ ability to pay, protecting our most vulnerable, including childcare providers and residents in low-income Black and Latinx communities,” said state Rep. Lamont Robinson, D-Chicago, the House sponsor of the bill.