Understanding Lead and Your Drinking Water
Where Does Lead Come From?
Water leaving the treatment plant does not contain lead. However, through corrosion of household plumbing materials, lead can leach into the water before it gets to your faucet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead in the plumbing system. Common sources of lead in plumbing materials are:
1. Lead service lines
The service line connects your 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. A homeowner can look at the pipe material prior to water meter to determine the type of pipe. Lead pipe will have a grey color whereas copper pipe is dark orange in color.
If the water main was replaced on your 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, will still be lead pipe.
2. Water Service Information Map
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. The material shown for the private portion of the water service line is derived from installation age, or when available, inspection data from the inside of the building. Because the service line is buried, the material identified inside the building is a good indication of, but does not guarantee, the material along the entire buried service line. Please contact 311 to provide any updated records of the private portion of the water service line material. This map can be accessed at https://maps.cityofevanston.
Residents may also request to participate in the City’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program as follows:
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 the portion of the water service from their home to the valve located in the parkway at their own expense. 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.
Please note that 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. If the property owner increases the size of the water service, they are 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 that want to participate in the lead service line replacement program don’t have to contact the City to participate in the program. Instead, the property owner needs to 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 3 to 6 months to complete based on the number of requests and other scheduled work performed by the City’s distribution maintenance employees.
2. Lead solder
Solder is used to connect metal piping. In 1987, lead solder was banned from use in household plumbing. If your house was built before 1987, your plumbing may have lead solder.
3. Brass faucets, valves and fittings
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 percent lead. Effective January 2014, The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act specifies that these materials may not contain more than 0.25 percent lead.
Drinking Water Lead Reduction Initiative
To address the concerns raised by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the City has developed a Drinking Water Lead Reduction Initiative which follows the Best Management Practices recommended by AWWA. This initiative includes the following elements:
- Lead Service Replacement Loan Program
- Point of Use Filter Program
- Post Construction Lead Testing Program
Lead Service Replacement Loan Program
The Evanston City Council has adopted an amendment to City Code Section 7-12-4-2 in an effort to encourage and incentivize property owners to replace lead water service pipes during water main replacement work. If the property has a lead water service pipe, homeowners are being encouraged to also replace the portion of the pipe from the service valve to the water meter. This work would need to be completed at the property owner’s expense. To ease the burden of this expense, the City may offer a zero interest loan to the property owner for the replacement of their individual lead water service pipe. The loan may be provided at the residential property owner’s request.
(copy and past the link above into the address bar of your web browser to access the Lead Service Pipe Replacement Loan Application)
This loan will have a one-time service fee of $50.00, and this fee will apply to each loan. The loan funding will be disbursed from the City’s Water Fund. The money loaned for replacement of the lead service pipe will not exceed four thousand eight hundred dollars ($4,800.00) and will be payable back to the City over a forty-eight (48) month period. The loan repayment will be charged as a one hundred ($100) dollar per month ($200 every two months) charge that will appear on the property owner’s bi-monthly City water utility bill. The first billing statement of the repayment period will include the one-time service fee of $50.00, in addition to the $200 loan repayment amount. All loan repayment amounts or loan service fees are in addition to all other regular City utility bill charges.
To be eligible for loan consideration, a residential property owner must be current in paying all utility charges owed to the City. The property must also have an operable Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) water meter. If a property owner fails to repay the loan balance, the City reserves the right to terminate water service, or take other actions as provided for under the City Code or state law. In addition, this loan is only available in conjunction with the City’s annual water main improvement project.
The average cost for replacement of the homeowner’s portion of the service pipe is approximately $7,000.00. The actual cost may vary depending on site-specific conditions. Homeowners are encouraged to obtain bids from two or more plumbers in order to obtain the best possible price. Some plumbers may be willing to provide a discount if they are able to mobilize for a number of replacement projects in the same neighborhood at the same time.
Point Of Use Filter Program
Due to concerns regarding risks for elevated lead levels following both partial and full lead service pipe replacement activities, the AWWA recommends customers use a point-of-use (POU) filter or consume bottled water until lead sample results indicate that their drinking water lead levels are less than the regulatory guideline of 15 parts per billion.
As a result of AWWA’s recommendation, the City of Evanston’s Public Works Agency is willing to provide a POU filter pitcher and two replacement filter cartridges to those properties where partial or full lead service line replacements occur in conjunction with the annual Water Main Improvement Project.
Post Construction Lead Testing Program
The AWWA recommends post construction testing of water following full and partial lead service pipe replacements to determine if appreciable lead is still present in the drinking water. Even if the lead service pipe is fully replaced, lead may still exist inside home plumbing (lead solder, re-deposited lead in scale of plumbing, and brass components). Therefore, testing may indicate the presence of lead in the water following a full service pipe replacement due to other plumbing fixtures that may contain lead.
As a result of AWWA’s recommendation, the City of Evanston’s Public Works Agency is willing to provide post construction lead testing approximately six weeks following full or partial lead service pipe replacements in conjunction with the annual Water Main Improvement Project. Testing the water after this period of time following the service pipe replacement will allow for sufficient in-house flushing and a period of normal use of water to occur.
What are the Health Impacts of Lead?
Lead can impact almost every organ and system in your 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. Learn more about lead paint.
What Does the City of Evanston Do to Minimize 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.
Detailed lead testing results can be viewed under the Related Documents section at the bottom of this page. More information on the Lead and Copper Rule can be found at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/lcr/index.cfm
Does Replacing My Water Meter Increase the Lead in the Drinking Water?
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.
What Can Residents Do to Minimize Lead Exposure in Drinking Water?
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 your household pipes or service line for a long period, and every house is different!
How Will I Know If Lead is in My Drinking Water?
If you are concerned, you can have your water tested for lead. Testing costs between $20 and $100. Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water (see link below for a list of Laboratories).
Should I Drink Bottled Water Instead of Tap Water?
No - not if you have access to treated tap water in Evanston. 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.
Maintenance on Water Service Line? Don’t Forget to Flush!
Most water services in Evanston are older and constructed of lead pipe. Blended phosphate is added to the water during the treatment process – this chemical creates a coating on the inside of pipelines to prevent metals, such as lead and copper, from leaching into the water. Please take the following steps as recommended by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) to minimize your exposure to any lead that may have been released.
Flush all your faucets using these steps:
1. Remove faucet aerators from all cold water taps in the home.
2. Beginning in the lowest level of the home, fully open the cold water taps throughout the home.
3. Let the water run for a least 30 minutes at the last tap you opened (top floor)
4. Turn off each tap starting with the taps in the highest level of the home. Be sure to run water in bathtubs and showers as well as faucets.
5. Do not consume tap water, open hot water faucets, or use icemaker or filtered water dispenser until after flushing is complete.
You may also wish to use a home filter for water to be used for drinking and cooking, particularly if you are pregnant or have children under age six.
Where Can I Get More Information?
Water Filter Information
Communicating About Lead Service Lines: A Guide for Water Systems Addressing Service Line Repair and Replacement
Find Lead Service Line Comm Guide
Where Can I Get More Information?
Check out the EPA’s website on lead in drinking water at: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water#regs
American Water Works Association Lead Video