It’s a classic homeowner’s dilemma: Try to fix one thing, break something else. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been upgrading the city’s water system. But a new study from the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that work may be causing new problems -- by disturbing lead pipes that lead to people’s homes.
The problem is what are called “service lines.” As late as 1986, they were often made of lead. The EPA study indicates that when construction work -- like replacing a water main -- touches a service line, the risk of serious lead contamination skyrockets. And sticks around for years.
What would it cost to dig up all those service lines? "That's a huge expense," says Rick Andrew, an expert on water quality and treatment for NSF International, a non-profit that develops standards for water and food safety. "Especially a city like Chicago, where most of the buildings were built before the 1980s."
And if you live in an older house in Chicago, and they're tearing up your street -- how much would a water filter cost you?
Andrew Wilson, from suburban Angel Water, offered a high-end pitch: "Usually, a high-quality system to remove lead out of the water would run a family, to have it installed by a licensed plumber, around $1,500.
Oregon-based Nike has replaced aluminum giant Alcoa among the thirty big companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And today it reports quarterly earnings, expected to be up twenty-four percent year-over-year on worldwide sales for the quarter of about $7 billion.
Nike may only be an athletic apparel company, says business consultant David Howitt at the Meriwether Group in Portland. But it stands in for an important segment of American business.
“You’re not only getting exposure to Nike, you're getting exposure to Converse and Jack Purcell and Hurley, that are owned by Nike,” says Howitt, “and casual to very sport-specific. So that allows the Dow to sort of represent ‘iconic consumer brand’ at its best.”
Even though Nike is flashy as a global brand, its stock isn’t. It hasn’t soared on hype and consumer buzz the way upstart competitors such as Under Armour and Lululemon Athletica have.
“It’s sports, and it’s being active,” says McGough. “And generally speaking, that’s a part of the consumer spending world that grows two to three points ahead of global GDP.”
Nike’s sales outpace the economy in part because consumers from Boston to Brasilia will spend more than they can really afford on the latest Swoosh-adorned sneaker. It’s about image, identity and aspiration, not just about the shoes.