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Chicago to replace 30,000 lead pipes with $336 million WIFIA loan

Chicago Construction News staff writer

The City of Chicago will use a $336 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to replace up to 30,000 lead pipes that deliver water to homes across the city while creating an estimated 2,700 jobs.

“Nine of the top 10 Chicago zip codes with the largest percentages of high lead levels were neighborhoods with majority Black and Latinx residents, so I am committed to prioritizing these communities along with our child care centers, and addressing this long-standing danger in an equitable and cost-effective manner,” Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said.

The city plans to replace all the legacy lead lines to help ensure that the water system is lead-free.

The WIFIA loan will be distributed over three years at $112 million a year. By offering the city flexible loan terms, the City of Chicago will be able to maintain affordable water rates while replacing lead service lines.

“With EPA’s $336 million loan, the City of Chicago will replace up to 30,000 lead pipes so that more local residents can rest assured that their water is safe,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “We are strengthening our regulations, investing in lead pipe replacement programs with $15 billion in dedicated funding under the President’s Investing in America agenda, and we are prioritizing lead pipe removal under this program.”

Chicago currently offers five replacement programs. The Equity Program replaces lead service lines for income-qualified residents; the Homeowner-Initiated Program waives up to $5,000 in permit fees; the Daycare Program replaces lines for licensed daycares; the Leaks and Breaks Program will replace lead lines whenever there is a leak or break on a resident’s line; and the Block-Long Program replaces lines when water or sewer mains are updated. More information can be found at the Lead-Safe Chicago website.

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