Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
As you may have seen in our pitch on Shark Tank, every city's water is different, and our undersink filters are optimized for their unique problems. Water quality is especially important to a Shark, so we wanted to do a quick breakdown on each Shark's water. In this post, we'll explore Chicago, home to none other than Lori Greiner!
Examining Chicago’s Water Source: Lake Michigan
Chicago draws its drinking water from Lake Michigan - a body of water that has been historically plagued with problems caused by industrial polluters. Illinois has jurisdiction over 64 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, all of which has been categorically assessed as “threatened” due to the high levels of E. coli, polychlorinated biphenyls, and mercury. In addition to these regulated contaminants, drinking water drawn from Lake Michigan also has tested positive for unregulated contaminants including chromium 6 and PFAS.
Does Chicago’s Aging Infrastructure Contaminate Tap Water With Lead?
Lead accumulates in tap water that flows through lead-containing pipes, soldered joints, and plumbing fixtures. Chicago is an older city and about 80% of water service lines city-wide are made of lead. For this reason, it should not be a huge surprise that Chicago's lead levels are high. In the most recent water quality report, multiple homes had lead levels that exceed EPA's Action Level, and 10% of samples had lead concentrations over 9.1 parts per billion (pbb). While these are "compliant" with loose federal regulations, EPA, Center for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and World Health Organization all agree that there is no such thing as a safe amount of lead for children. Additionally, most people are surprised to learn that only 50 samples are collected every 3 years in Chicago (population 2.7 million people).
How Can I Protect Myself Against Lead Contamination In Chicago Drinking Water?
In summary, there's huge potential for lead contamination in Chicago drinking water. For that reason, when our Water Nerds build filters for Chicago residents, we design them to handle the worst case scenario for lead. If your only concern is lead contamination and you don't want to purchase a filter rated to remove lead, city officials recommend letting your tap run for 2 minutes before drinking or cooking. Hydroviv encourages Chicago residents to take advantage of Chicago’s free lead-testing program! Call 311 or visit http://www.chicagowaterquality.org/home for more information.
How High Are Chromium 6 Levels In Chicago?
Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6 or the Erin Brockovich chemical, is unregulated and present in an overwhelming majority of public water supplies. In April of 2017, U.S Steel Co dumped over 300 pounds of hexavalent chromium into a tributary of Lake Michigan. The $900,000 settlement doesn’t even begin to touch mitigation costs associated with chromium 6 contamination. Chromium 6 concentrations in Chicago drinking water ranged from 180 to 220 parts per trillion. Despite being an unregulated contaminant, these levels are roughly 10 times higher than what the California Water Boards considers to have a negligible risk on cancer. Chromium 6 is typically discharged as a liquid effluent from metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production - all of which occur at some capacity in surrounding Lake Michigan communities. Unlike lead, which comes from lead-containing pipes, solder, valves, and fixtures, chromium 6 contamination comes from the water sources itself. The only way to remove it from drinking water is by using a high quality filter (like ours)!