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Quigley: More Must be Done to Protect Chicago’s Drinking Water

Feb 18, 2016
Press Release

CHICAGO – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), led a conversation with local leaders to discuss what needs to be done at the local, state and federal level to keep Chicago’s drinking water safe from harmful toxins like lead.

“What we saw in Flint, Michigan was absolutely unacceptable, and we cannot allow history to repeat itself. While I don’t believe that Chicago is the next Flint, we do have to think about the best way to manage and protect one of our most precious resources: our public drinking water,” said Rep. Quigley. “When it comes to keeping our families safe, transparency is key. I look forward to working with my partners at the state, local and federal levels to ensure that we are working together to improve outdated lead regulations and providing better guidance to the public about what residents can do to lower their risk of lead poisoning.”

“Americans are aghast at what they see in Flint right now. While that situation is the result of some horrifically bad decisions and an unacceptable lack of government transparency, we have to recognize that the mess in Michigan is emblematic of problems found around the country,” said Henry Henderson, Midwest Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Flint is a clarion call to end the disinterest and disinvestment that is crumbling the infrastructure systems we all rely on in our daily lives."

The crisis in Flint, Michigan has made the hazards of lead pipes a national issue. Even though Chicago is in full compliance with state and federal laws, the leaders at today’s discussion agreed that the City should go above and beyond the current requirements to better protect its residents, especially since many of the laws are outdated.

Nearly 80 percent of the properties in Chicago are hooked up to service lines made of lead. Most older cities, including Chicago, add corrosion-fighting chemicals to the water supply that form a protective coating inside pipes. However, an EPA study and other research shows the anti-corrosion treatment can be thwarted when street work, plumbing repairs or changes in water chemistry disrupts the coating, causing alarming levels of lead to seep from service lines. Today’s participants agreed that more needs to be done to notify homeowners about new water mains being installed near their homes, the potential for lead hazards, and how to protect their families against heavy metals. They also agreed that the federal Lead and Copper Rule must be updated to reflect current health risks.

Rep. Quigley addressing the participants at the NRDC roundtable on what can be done to protect Chicago’s drinking water supply from heavy toxins like lead.

As a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Rep. Quigley has been a stalwart protector of the environment since he arrived in Washington in 2009. Since assuming his role as the only Illinois member of the House Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and worked to secure over $600 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Last year, he went on a tour through the Pullman and Calumet region to highlight the positive impact environmental restoration can have on community development. He has urged his colleagues in the House to put partisanship aside and craft America’s first national energy plan to address climate change. Rep. Quigley has opposed the environmentally harmful Keystone XL pipeline and fought for increased protections against oil and gas drilling. During his Chicago Climate Tour of 2013, he visited regional environmental sites to hear from experts on the local impact of climate change and efforts to address the issue.