Should Chicago and all old cities replace their lead water pipes?

Nationally, it might cost $1 trillion or more

The dangerously corroded and lead-contaminated water pipes in Flint, Mich. is a canon-ball reminder that the water systems in America's major cities need to be replaced.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has announced that it plans to replace all of its lead-contaminated pipes at a cost of

Crews repair a water main near Benito Juarez Community High School in the Pilsen neighborhood. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune)

Crews repair a water main near Benito Juarez Community High School in the Pilsen neighborhood. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune)

about $42 million. Public health experts and civil engineers agree that lead poisoning is so hazardous, especially for children, that cities with lead piping 100 or more years old should be replaced with new cooper or other safer pipes.

But the cost of replacing all the old pipes is mind boggling reports Fortune magazine :

Most US. cities, according to Michael Deane, executive director of the National Association of Water Companies, have budgeted in terms of a “300-year replacement cycle to replace the pipes in the ground.” But the American Society of Civil Engineers say pipes reach the end of their useful lives in 95 years. In other words, cities’ budgets are woefully inadequate for replacement needs. The ASCE said some studies estimated an additional $1 trillion should be spent over a 25-year period for the most urgently needed pipe replacements—lead and otherwise.

Chicago is no exception. The problem of aging pipes isn't new to Chicago. A study by the Center for Neighborhood Technology found that 22 billion gallons of water is lost annually from Chicago's decaying water system. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made replacing the city's decaying water infrastructure a priority, not just because the pipes are falling apart and leaking water. But how much can the deeply indebted city with its low bond rating afford?.

The poisoned Flint water system now brings the urgent problem to the nation's attention.

Read why Americans need to learn about the nation's most ignored war. 

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  • Canon-ball? Is that when the clergy pop the corks?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Excellent catch, Mr. Wired. Actually it's when the cops throw the (Good) Book at you.

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