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Articles by Environmental Justice Fellow Siri Chilukuri

Siri Chilukuri is a journalist based in Chicago who covers culture, labor, and climate change. She's a 2023-2024 Grist Fellow in Environmental Justice.

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This story was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

The announcement earlier this week — that the EPA wants to get rid of lead pipes that provide drinking water within the next decade — sounded like good news, especially in Chicago, which has the most lead water pipes of any city in the United States.

But the fine print is disappointing: Because of a loophole or “carve-out” in the proposed rule, some residents there could still end up waiting another 40 years for the lead pipes to be removed. 

The EPA mandate makes an exception for places where it would be almost impossible to replace all of the lead pipes within 10 years. It would be a colossal challenge to remove Chicago’s nearly 400,000 lead water pipes. Cities and towns that are in a similar position to Chicago could instead replace 10,000 pipes a year until all lead pipes are removed. That means Chicago could theoretically take more than 40 years to solve the problem and still be in compliance with the rule, which is expected to be finalize... Read more

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