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Project November 11, 2021

Lead Pipes in Evanston: How Local Government Inaction Reinforces Inequity


Even at low exposure, the consumption of lead can cause irreversible damage, according to the EPA. Illinois reports the highest number of lead service lines in the nation, and the majority of these pipes are found in the Chicago area.

Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago, reports 11,471 lead service lines, which carry the city’s drinking water. City staffers are slowly working to replace these pipes, but it is primarily the homeowner’s responsibility to find out if their water is safe, and if not, to replace the plumbing.

Lead pipes are a major equity concern in Evanston, as a lack of robust city services will leave lower-income families without the resources and financial assistance they need to ensure the drinking water is safe. Additionally, lead levels in the blood of Black and brown children are much higher than in white children, and these communities disproportionately suffer from environmental injustices, including the lead in drinking water. This piece will be published in the Evanston RoundTable, a local nonprofit newspaper.