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$106 Million Coming To Illinois In 2022 To Replace Lead Water Lines, But Many Still Worry It's Not Enough

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A total of $106 million is headed to Illinois next year to replace the network of lead pipes that have left many residents - Chicagoans in particular - drinking dangerous, lead-laced water.

The CBS 2 investigators have been uncovering the problem as part of our "Getting Hosed" series on bad water bills.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, the funding for Illinois is part of a big federal plan outlined Thursday. Clean water advocates say it's a good start, but won't even come close to correcting the lead pipe problem that is plaguing the city and the state.

It's not a distinction that we wanted, but here we are. Illinois has the highest number of verified lead water service lines in the nation - with approximately 680,000.

And that is not including another approximately 775,000 of "unknown material."

Chicago alone has about 380,000 verified lead lines, according to the plan released Thursday by the Biden Administration.

"There is no reason in the 21st century for why people are still exposed to this substance that was poisoning people back in the 18th century," said Vice President Kamala Harris. "There is no good reason."

We learned Illinois is getting a total of $106,681,000 for lead service line replacement in 2022. That sounds like a ton of money

But Brian Jack with the Illinois Section American Water Works Association explained me that the average cost of just one lead service line replacement is $3,000 to $8,000.

"I mean that could be, you know, $3 billion to $5 billion dollars — just for Illinois," Jack said.

Another point of concern is that in 2022, Illinois is getting less money than New York, Texas Florida, and California - which all have far fewer verified lines.

"It really does surprise me that we didn't get more funding," Jack said. "That's where I would like to have people start is look at your own home, see what you have, contact your own municipality, and see what programs that are already out there."

The city said Thursday they are advocating for the maximum allocation possible to the city of Chicago.

Hickey is told that ultimately, the funding decisions will be up to the state. There was no response from Gov. JB Pritzker's office late Thursday.

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