Chicago Drinking Water Issues | City of Chicago Water Problems – Hydroviv

Problems We Found In Chicago's Drinking Water

Problems We Found In Chicago's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Chicago’s drinking water issues, we aggregated water quality test data provided by the City of Chicago, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and supplemental health information. We cross referenced the city’s water quality test data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in Chicago’s drinking water.

Where Does Chicago Source Its Drinking Water?

Chicago sources its drinking water from Lake Michigan and is treated at two water treatment facilities. The Jardine Water Purification Plant services the northern area of the city and suburbs, and the South Water Purification Plant serves the southern parts of the city and suburbs. Lake Michigan has had a long history of pollution, including a recent lawsuit involving Chromium 6 releases from an abutting steel facility.  

Chromium 6 In Chicago’s Drinking Water

Chicago’s drinking water has some of the highest levels of Chromium 6 among major cities in the U.S. Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. In recent years, Chicago’s tap water has averaged 190 parts per trillion for Chromium 6. This is 9.5 times higher than the concentration determined to have a negligible impact on cancer risk, as reported by the California Environmental Protection Agency. Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. The state of California set their own health advisory level because Chromium 6 is not regulated by the federal government. EPA has acknowledged that Chromium 6 is a known human carcinogen through inhalation, but is still determining its cancer potential through ingestion of drinking water. Lung, nasal and sinus cancers are associated with Chromium 6 exposure. Acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress are health effects associated with high levels of Chromium 6 exposure.

Lead In Chicago’s Drinking Water

In recent years, the City of Chicago's water has had serious problems with lead contamination. When corrosion control measures put in place by the municipality fail (like what recently happened in Flint, Michigan), lead leaches into the drinking water, and can reach dangerous levels. Houses built before 1986 were most likely built with lead service lines, plumbing, and fixtures. Currently, 10% of the samples analyzed by the City of Chicago had lead concentrations over 9.1 parts per billion (ppb). While Chicago is technically in compliance with loose federal regulations, these levels are currently some of the highest in the country. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children between the ages of 0-5. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain. Any threshold of lead concentration is not safe for infants and young children.

Disinfection Byproducts In Chicago’s Drinking Water

Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is still unknown. DBPs are formed when chlorine-based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. 

Chlorine Makes Chicago Tap Water Taste Bad

Like most other municipalities in the U.S., Chicago injects its water with chlorine to protect against waterborne illness. While not typically considered to be harmful on its own, many people find that removing chlorine from drinking water greatly enhances its taste and odor.   

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for the city of Chicago’s tap water problems, feel free to visit to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
5 Things To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

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  • Analies Dyjak