Chicago Lead Pipe Water Contamination

DEFENDANT NAME: The City of Chicago
COURT: Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois
STATUS: Active
DATE FILED: 02/18/16

Chicago Lead Pipe Water Contamination Class-Action Lawsuit Infographic

Chicago residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago, claiming that it knowingly started construction projects that exponentially increased the risk of toxic levels of lead in residents’ tap water, and that the city failed to warn residents of the risks or provide accurate directions on how to reduce the risk of lead contamination.

The lawsuit, filed on Feb. 18, 2016 in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois, states that the city’s aging lead water pipes are disturbed by construction or street work, meter installation or replacement, or plumbing repairs – projects that disrupt the polyphosphate coating that protects the service lines and increases the risk of “alarming levels of lead” into nearby residents’ water supply. Nearly 80 percent of the properties in Chicago receive drinking water via outdated, brittle lead pipes that are cut and greatly disturbed by the city’s water and sewer main projects.

According to expert Marc Edwards, drinking Chicago tap water, particularly where the city has conducted a water main replacement project, is “like a game of Russian roulette.”

The lawsuit highlights the city’s lax and inaccurate information given to residents in light of lead contamination risks. Studies have shown that when lead service lines are disturbed, they can release lead for weeks, months or even years after the disturbance, yet the city of Chicago tells residents that running water for three to five minutes is an adequate measure to combat contamination from disturbed corrosion – but fails to even mention lead – according to the complaint.

The complaint states, “The buried warning the City did give residents fell far short of providing advice that would actually protect residents, according to leading experts in the field. One leading expert has even called the City’s actions ‘criminal.’”

If you are a resident of Chicago and believe you have been put at risk of lead contamination due to the city’s disruptive construction projects and lack of information, you may be entitled to medical monitoring and other compensation from the city. Contact Hagens Berman’s legal team about the class-action lawsuit on behalf of Chicago residents.

The suit seeks medical assistance for affected residents, including a fund to pay for medical monitoring to diagnose lead poisoning to make sure residents are made aware of the hazards and effects of contamination.

The complaint states that Chicago’s public water system contains millions of lead pipe service lines throughout the city and that since 2008, the city of Chicago has been modernizing its water system, replacing water mains and pipes that date to the 1800s. It has conducted more than 1,600 water main and sewer replacement projects since Jan. 1, 2009 that directly affect the water supply to Chicago residents.

Chicago uses anti-corrosive coatings, but the anti-corrosion treatment can fail when pipes are disturbed by construction or street work, meter installation or replacement, or plumbing repairs, the suit states. This process regularly disturbs the lead service pipes supplying water to Chicago residents, who have never received accurate warnings or information about the risks of lead contamination. Moreover, the City only partially replaces the lead service lines, attaching them to copper pipes, according to the complaint. The contact between the copper and lead pipes can then cause galvanic corrosion, leading to the continued contamination of residents’ drinking water for years to come.

According to the firm’s investigation, residents received only one flyer when their water mains were replaced. This flyer, which currently fails to even mention lead, merely advises residents that running water for three to five minutes is an adequate precaution. According to the American Water Works Association, immediately following a lead service line replacement, cold water should be run for at least 30 minutes.

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