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Evanston officials are placing in motion changes to a loan program to assist residents in the cost of removing lead pipes from their homes.

Aldermen on the City Council’s Human Services Committee on March 1 recommended in favor of a resolution declaring the replacement of lead pipe used to construct water service lines as a public benefit.

The ordinance will next go to the full City Council for approval.

The recognition allows public funds to be used to replace the portion of the water service line that is the property owner’s responsibility to maintain and repair, said David Stoneback, the City’s Public Works Agency Director, in a memo to the Committee.

Lead is a toxic metal and can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels, according to guidelines put out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Stoneback reported at the Feb. 8 City Council meeting that officials have seen relatively low participation from residents in an interest-free loan program the City launched in 2017 to help homeowners on the cost of removing lead piping from the water service lines that go into their homes.

With the City’s 2021 water main replacement work soon to begin, officials want to avoid temporary higher level spikes of lead in the water that can occur if the lead pipes on the homeowners side are not removed.

“Based on the input received from the City Council, staff is preparing an ordinance which will increase the incentives for the property owner to participate in the lead service line replacement program,” Mr. Stoneback said. “The proposed incentives would remove the existing $4,800 cap on the loan amount and allow the City to issue a loan for the full cost of the replacement. The repayment period would be extended so that the bi- monthly loan payment would stay at $200.”

Residents along one of the streets scheduled for water main work this year, Foster Street between Emerson Street and Hartrey Avenue, may be in line for an additional benefit, Mr. Stoneback pointed out.

The properties in that area are located within a census block that is CDBG- (Community Development Block Grant) eligible, meaning that it is in a primarily residential neighborhood where 51% or more of residents have incomes that do not exceed 80% of the Area Median Income, Mr. Stoneback noted.

One of the incentives Council members supported would allow the City to offer full cost of the replacement to homeowners living in a CDBG-eligible area in lieu of a loan that must be repaid, he said.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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