Removing brain-damaging lead from day cares is aim of new Cook County initiative

Though efforts to replace potentially dangerous lead service lines across Illinois have been slow and costly, Cook County government Tuesday announced a new program to replace at least 550 such lines at suburban home-based day cares over the next two years.

Under the new LeadCare Cook County, providers in Calumet City, Cicero, Hazel Crest, Harvey and Maywood can apply now to have lead service lines — the pipes that deliver water from the main to the building — removed and replaced.

The goal is to reach “all interested communities in suburban Cook County by 2025,” County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a Monday news conference rolling out the program. The $15 million pilot is funded by a portion of the $1 billion the county received in federal pandemic relief through the American Rescue Plan.

The county has hundreds of millions of federal relief money left to spend, according to the county’s latest budget forecast.