Chicago Department of Water Management to Conduct First of its Kind Water Quality Study

August 1, 2016

Independent, proactive study to investigate possible impacts associated with water main construction for single family, two-flat residences with lead service lines

Gary Litherland, DWM    312.742.1027

August 1, 2016

As part of the Chicago Department of Water Management’s (DWM) proactive approach to water quality research, the department today announced that it will be conducting a first of its kind study to determine the possible impacts of water main construction on water quality for single family and two-flat residences with lead service lines.

“The Department of Water Management has a history of leading and proactively participating in cutting edge research that helps to both evaluate current water system protocols and inform changes to optimize water quality,” said Commissioner Barrett Murphy. “The Department strives to provide the cleanest, best tasting water possible, and this new study is just the latest example of our efforts to ensure we’re using the most up to date methods to ensure water quality.”

Chicago has an excellent water source – Lake Michigan – and this fresh water is virtually lead-free when it leaves DWM’s water treatment plants. However, many older single family and two-flat residences built before 1986 are likely to have lead service lines connecting the individual home to the water main. These older homes may also have lead solder and older interior household plumbing containing lead. To mitigate the effects of these potential sources of lead exposure, DWM has an anti-corrosion program in which a blended phosphate is added to the water, forming a coating on the pipes from the treatment center to the faucet, minimizing the risk that lead and other contaminants will leach into the water. As a result of this successful program, Chicago’s residential water has consistently met and exceeded state, federal and industry standards.

DWM is launching this study due to the lack of current research around water main installation – specifically, there are no scientific studies that have explored the possible impacts associated with water main construction on water quality in residences with lead service lines, which are traditionally older single family and two-flat homes. DWM has begun contacting residents who live in homes near upcoming water main replacement projects to find volunteers willing to participate in this study.

At each participating residence, DWM will obtain two sets of water samples from a faucet in the home – the first set before construction begins and the second set within a month of the water main installation. A smaller number of participating residences will then be randomly selected to continue in a second phase of the study, with sampling conducted on a monthly basis for another five months. Once collected, water samples will be analyzed by an independent, third-party lab. DWM will contact residents with their individual data when available, and the broader results will be posted online.



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