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Water leaving the treatment plant does no contain lead. However, through corrosion of household plumbing materials, lead can leach into the water before it gets to the faucet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead in the plumbing system.
Lead Service Lines
The service line connects the home to the City’s water main. The City owns the portion of the line between the water main and the shutoff valve located in the parkway. The property owner is responsible for the line between the shutoff valve and the house. In homes built prior to 1960, the service line was constructed of lead pipe. Between 1960 and 1980 plumbers began using copper rather than lead, but some lead pipe was still installed. The service line to homes built after 1980 were constructed of copper Lead pipe will have a grey color, whereas copper pipe is dark orange in color.
If the water main was replaced on a block, the service line from the water main to the shutoff valve in the parkway was replaced with copper pipe. However, the homeowner’s portion of the service line, from the house to the shutoff valve, may still be lead pipe.
The City of Evanston has now made available to the public a Water Service Information Map to find information regarding both the public and private portions of your water service. This map can be accessed at https://maps.cityofevanston.org/mapgallery/. However, City officials have acknowledged that the information may not be accurate.
Lead Service Line Replacement Program
The City offers a program where the City will share the cost of replacing a lead service line with property owners. Under this program, the property owner must replace and pay for the portion of the water service from the home to the valve located in the parkway. Once this work is completed, the City will replace the portion of the water service from the parkway to the water main located in the street at no expense to the property owner.
This program is only for the replacement of a lead water service, and as such the new water service must be the same size as the existing water service. A property owner who increases the size of the water service is then responsible to replace the entire length of the water service (from the home to the water main), as this is considered a service line up-grade rather than a lead service line replacement.
Property owners who wish to participate in the lead service line replacement program do not have to contact the City to participate in the program but should hire a licensed plumber to perform the water service line replacement between the house and the parkway. The City recommends that the property owner contact several plumbers in order to make sure that they are getting the best price and service.
The selected plumber must obtain a permit from the City’s Community Development Department prior to performing the work. As part of the permit application, the plumber should indicate the need to replace the shutoff valve (curbstop and B-box) located in the parkway. Once the property owner’s side of the water service and shutoff valve is replaced, the City will schedule the replacement of the lead water service from the valve in the parkway to the water main. This work could take three to six months to complete, based on the number of requests and other scheduled work performed by the City’s distribution maintenance employees.
Solder is used to connect metal piping. In 1987, lead solder was banned from use in household plumbing. Plumbing in homes built before 1987 may have lead solder.
Almost all faucets, valves, and fittings have brass components. Until 2014, brass faucets and fittings sold in the U.S. and labeled “lead-free” could contain up to 8% lead. Effective January 2014, The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act specifies that these materials may not contain more than 0.25% lead.
Health Impacts of Lead
Lead can impact almost every organ and system in the body. Exposure to high lead levels can severely impair mental function and damage the kidneys. Pregnant/nursing women and children under the age of six are most vulnerable. Additional information is available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/ According to the EPA, the most likely exposure to lead is swallowing lead paint chips or breathing in lead paint dust.
How the City Minimizes Lead Exposure in Drinking Water
The City of Evanston complies with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1991. The City has complied on a continuous basis since 1992. This rule requires utilities at risk for lead and copper in the water to add an approved chemical to control lead and copper levels in drinking water. The Evanston Water Treatment Facility adds blended phosphate during the treatment process. This deposits a thin layer of phosphate on the inside of pipes to prevent the drinking water from directly touching the metal. Samples to test for compliance are taken from faucets in homes and businesses to ensure that drinking water reaching the consumer is safe. The LCR uses what is known as an “Action Level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) at the 90th percentile. The 90th percentile in Evanston’s water has been below the Action Level for lead since November 1992.
More information on the Lead and Copper Rule can be found at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/lcr/index.cfm
As a result of Illinois Public Act 099-0922 and requirements established by the Illinois Environment Protection Agency, all Community Water Systems across the State, including Evanston, are required to provide the following information any time there is a water service disruption to a property served by a lead pipe: Lead levels may be elevated in the weeks, months, or years following a water meter replacement.
How Residents Can Minimize Lead in Drinking Water
Residents should use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula (cold water is less likely than hot water to leach metal from pipes and fittings). Any time there has not been water use for several hours, residents should flush their pipes until the water gets as cold as it gets. If there has been recent heavy water use, such as showering or laundry, this could take as little as five to thirty seconds. Otherwise it could take two minutes or longer. The goal is to get to fresh water that has not been sitting in household pipes or service line for a long period, and every house is different.
Concerned residents can have their water tested for lead. Testing costs between $20 and $100. Since lead dissolved in water cannot be tasted or smelled, testing is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in drinking water.
Evanstonians do not necessarily need to drink bottled water instead of treated tap water. Lake Michigan is a great source of drinking water and the water undergoes treatment overseen by qualified water plant operators and laboratory personnel. Tap water is highly regulated, and is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than bottled water.
Most water services in Evanston are older and constructed of lead pipe. Blended phosphate is added to the water during the treatment process. The following steps are recommended by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) to minimize exposure to any lead that may have been released.
Related documents found at www.cityofevanston.org/government/departments/public-works/public-outreach/evanston-water-sewer-service/lead-in-drinking-water:
• Communicating About Lead Service Lines: A Guide for Water Systems Addressing Service Line Repair and Replacement
• Find Lead Service Line Comm Guide
• Water Meter Replacement Information
• Typical Water Service Detail
• Labs for Lead Analysis
• Historical Lead Testing Results 1992-2017
• Drinking Fountain Results Residents can also call 311 for this information.