Illinois Has a Lead Pipe Problem It Must Solve As Biden EPA Suspends Trump Lead in Drinking Water Regulations

CHICAGO ­– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today suspended the Trump-era Lead and Copper Rule to seek additional public input, particularly from communities with lead-contaminated drinking water. Illinois has more lead service lines than any other state in the nation, with an estimated 730,000 to 1.4 million lead service lines delivering drinking water to residents. There is no safe level of exposure to lead.

“The EPA’s decision to talk to communities suffering from lead-contaminated water is a sign of positive change at the federal level. But, because federal action is often too slow, we remain committed to passing state legislation to get every lead pipe out of the ground in Illinois,” said Jeremy Orr, a senior attorney with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The Illinois Legislature introduced a bill earlier this month that would mandate all water utilities begin the process of replacing all of the lead service lines within the state. This replacement of dangerous lead service lines would have a direct impact on protecting the health and well-being of all Illinoisans—especially the most vulnerable Black and Latinx communities.

The Trump regulation left millions of people exposed to toxic lead in drinking water, in many cases for another 33 years or more. NRDC challenged the Trump regulations in January of this year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The NAACP and other advocacy groups, represented by Earthjustice, challenged the rule in January too, and ten states filed another lawsuit in March. The status of those cases has not yet been determined in light of today’s announcement. 

Additional Resources:
Illinois Must Be a Leader on Lead Service Line Replacement (blog)
Data Points: the environmental injustice of lead lines in Illinois
An Equitable Solution to Lead in Illinois’ Water (video)

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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