Lead abatement in Chicago homes and businesses requires an efficient, cohesive, and targeted solution, directed by city leadership, supported by state and federal government, and championed by private stakeholders. Lead-contaminated water, if it is not quickly addressed, will continue to increase the likelihood of negative impacts to health and development of Chicago’s most vulnerable population: its children. Each day we do not act on our lead contamination problem, we increase the risk of persistent direct and indirect economic and social impacts on children and adults. Lead abatement, like many large public health problems, must have a data-driven approach to quickly identify impacted populations and move to equitably remediate lead exposure in the most vulnerable communities within the city. Newark, New Jersey made a dramatic impact on lead exposure with a lead pipe replacement program that utilized a focused, strategic, and tactical approach to tackle this multilayered problem. There are four things that our city can concentrate on to improve the effectiveness of the lead remediation process:
1.) Ensure that we leverage the data we have collected to utilize artificial-intelligence modeling to drive informed decision making.
2.) Engage public, private, and government stakeholders to design innovative “financial instruments” to fund lead pipe remediation projects (e.g., grants, bonds, loans, and/or tax rebates).
3.) Fast track lead pipe remediation projects through targeted city ordinances (e.g., permitting, inspection, testing requirements, and mandatory replacement when municipal and private repairs occur).
4.) Continue to encourage interim measures such as the utilization of water filters designed to remove lead (and other harmful chemicals/particulates), and technological innovation such as trenchless waterline replacement which will decrease time and costs associated with remediating existing lead water pipes.
As Chicagoans we have an obligation to prioritize the elimination of lead contamination from our community to protect, preserve, and promote the positive health and well-being of all our citizens.