Water meter installations suspended after city finds spikes of brain-damaging lead in homes

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has suspended the city's water meter installation program after recent testing found high concentrations of lead in some homes.

The mayor’s order to halt work on the program is said to be out of an abundance of caution, and comes after the city has already installed new water meters in nearly 200,000 homes.

Data uncovered by the Chicago Tribune found there were spikes of brain-damaging lead in more than one in five homes where new meters were installed.

According to the report, of 510 homes tested since 2017, 22% had elevated lead levels in tap water, and 7%  had spikes that were three times higher than the FDA standard for bottled water.

The problem is attributed to street work on or near the city’s old lead pipes, plumbing repairs or the installation of the smart meters.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel had pushed for smart meters to encourage water conservation.The city borrowed more than $480 million  to fund the program, leading to higher water rates.

Throughout his tenure, Emanuel downplayed any lead problems with Chicago's water system.

During her campaign, Lightfoot called for expanded lead testing.

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