Quick Facts, General Information, and FAQs

Voluntary Lead Water Service Pipe Replacement Program

May 6, 2019 Update

Quick Facts

Who is impacted by the new ordinance?

The newly adopted ordinance provides for a voluntary lead water service pipe replacement program.

Only homes constructed before 1986 would potentially have lead water service lines.

The new ordinance ONLY impacts property owners if:

  • The City has a planned infrastructure project with underground utility work that could cause disruptions to the water service.
  • The private portion of the water service pipe is lead
  • *Note: For 2019, the lead water service pipe replacement program will only impact households that live in the project areas for the Chicago Street Reconstruction Project, the Jewett Rehabilitation Project, and the Lord Street Basin Sewer Separation Project. Any other impacted areas will only be as a result of an emergency repair of City water infrastructure in areas known to have lead water pipes. For example, water main breaks, sewer repairs, public portion service line leaks or broken valves.

If the City has to perform emergency utility work, property owners will be given water filters and have six months to select an option from the program.

What are my options?

The new ordinance provides property owners with three options when infrastructure projects prompt a response. Two of those options include replacing the private portion of the lead service line, while the City concurrently replaces the public portion. The third option provides the property owner with a non-replacement safety precaution.

The three options include:

  • Property owner hires a plumber of their choice and replaces privately owned lead pipes at their own cost.
  • Property owner uses a pre-qualified plumber (list of pre-qualified plumbers), after selecting the lowest cost of two quotes, and receives a zero-interest loan from the City of up to $4800. The loan repayment is $80 per month for up to 5 years. There will also be a one-time $50 service fee. ***Low-to moderate-income residents can repay at $40 per month.
  • Property owners sign a waiver and commit for two years to drinking bottled water or using filtered water. A faucet-mounted water filter will be provided by the City at no cost along with replacement cartridges. The City will also offer voluntary water testing to check for the presence of lead. Testing is optional and would occur within 30 days of the replacement of the City portion of the water service pipe. Retests are available after 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months. The property owners or occupants of the property can request the tests. Whoever requests the testing will be responsible for the payment of the tests to the City of Elgin in advance. More information on laboratory testing can be found here.

General Information

There are two parts to a water service line: the private portion (from home meter to Buffalo box/shutoff valve) and the public/City-owned portion (from the Buffalo box/shutoff valve to the water main).

It is a current practice for the City to replace the public portion of the water service line when replacing a water main, and when disturbing lead service lines in other underground activities, like sewer installations.

Property owners are responsible for any replacement of the private portion of the water service line.

Landlords will be required to inform tenants of their plans.

Property owners contacted who do not comply with options or fail to repay loans can have water shut off.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How likely are City of Elgin residents to be at risk from lead in their drinking water?

A:  A resident’s level of risk depends on the amount of lead present in their plumbing, and the length of time that their water is exposed to the lead containing plumbing. Replacing lead containing piping and fixtures is the best long-term approach to reducing lead in drinking water exposure. 

 The City of Elgin’s water does not contain lead and is stable when it exits the City’s water treatment plant. However, water is the universal solvent and when water sits stagnant in a pipe line where lead is present, the potential of lead leaching into the water exists. Homes that were constructed before 1986 are more likely to have lead containing brass fixtures, lead containing solder, lead fittings and lead service lines where stagnant water can leach lead. Flushing the home’s taps (i.e. faucets and other fixtures) by running the water on COLD can reduce the lead levels within the water for cooking and drinking. Flushing times can vary based on the length of lead service and plumbing configuration within the home, and the length of lead services varies considerably. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) recommends flushing for at least 3 to 5 minutes when a lead water service exists. Point of use, or whole house, water filters that are designed for lead removal can reduce the amount of lead within water.

Q: How does lead get into drinking water?

A: Chemically stable water, or water that contains additives to coat pipes and fixtures, can resist lead leaching into the water. Lead gets into drinking water when the protective coating that is inside of water system pipes or fixtures is disturbed – either chemically or physically. Lead can also get into drinking water from corrosion of lead containing pipes or fixtures.

Q: Does the City of Elgin test for lead?

A: The City of Elgin is required by federal law to test for lead at 50 sample sites throughout the community every three years.

Q: What does the City of Elgin do to prevent elevated lead levels?

A: The City of Elgin controls the pH and alkalinity of the water leaving the water treatment plants so that it is stable and noncorrosive.

Q: Where does the City of Elgin get its water?

A: The majority of the City’s water comes from the Fox River, the remaining portion of the water comes from deep wells. Both water sources are treated at the City’s two water treatment plants, and then the treated water is distributed to the water customers through the City’s water distribution system.

Q: How susceptible is the City of Elgin to a public health crisis like what happened in Flint, Mich.?

A: One of the main causes of the Flint, Mich. crisis was the sudden change in source water and then insufficient water quality monitoring. The City of Elgin has been treating the same two sources of water for decades, and has no current plans to change our water source. The City of Elgin has multiple water quality monitoring processes in place to avert a public health crisis.

Q: What would be the most likely source of lead in my home’s water?

A: Homes constructed before 1986 are more likely to have lead containing brass fixtures, lead fittings, lead solder and lead service lines. In at least one study, galvanized (zinc-coated) pipes were found to be a significant long-term source of lead in water.

Q: What does the City do to ensure its water is safe?

A: The City continuously monitors the quality of the water exiting the water treatment plants, and water distribution system. Furthermore, the City monitors the lead and copper content within 50 buildings throughout the community every three years, in order to ensure that the corrosion control treatment measures remain effective.

Q: Does the City implement any other water safety measures?

A: The City’s water is continuously monitored throughout the treatment process to ensure that it meets all federal and state requirements for safe drinking water.

Q: Why is the City disturbing lead service lines?

A: Lead service lines are disturbed during planned construction activities and during emergency construction, such as water main breaks or service line leaks.

Q: Should I replace my service line?

A: The City of Elgin recommends that residents replace lead service lines. The City is committed to replacing the public portion of a service line, in conjunction with a property owner replacing their private portion of their lead service line.

Image by LSLR Collaborative.

Q: Who pays for replacement of service lines?

A: The City will pay for the replacement of the City’s portion of the line (from the water main to the b-box/shutoff valve). The resident will pay for the replacement of the remaining portion of the line (from the b-box/shutoff valve into the home).

Q: How much does it cost to replace a service line?

A: The typical service line replacement on the private side (from the b-box to the water meter within the home) is expected to cost $3,000-$4,200.

Q: Do I need a permit from the City of Elgin to replace my lead service line?

A: Yes, a permit is required from the Building Division of the Community Development Department.

Q: Are there additional measures I can take to ensure my water is safe?

A: Running your water, on COLD, for several minutes before using the water for cooking or drinking can reduce the lead levels within the water. In addition to daily flushing, there are many commercially available filters that are NSF certified to remove lead.

Q: Should I test my drinking water for lead?

A: If your house was built before 1986 and members of the household drink water from the tap, especially the potentially vulnerable portion of the population (young children, pregnant women, etc.), a lead test is advised. The city of Elgin does not provide laboratory testing for lead, information on laboratory testing can be found here.

Q: What are the health effects of lead in drinking water?

A: Documented health effects of elevated concentrations of lead in drinking water within children include: behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia. Documented health effects of elevated concentrations of lead in drinking water within pregnant women include reduced fetus growth and premature birth. Adults exposed to lead can have cardiovascular effects, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems.

Q: What measures can I take to reduce lead in drinking water at home?

A: Running your water, on COLD, for several minutes before using the water for cooking or drinking can reduce the lead levels within the water. In addition to daily flushing, there are many commercially available filters that are NSF certified to remove lead.

Q: Where can I find more information?

A: cityofelgin.org/lead

Q: If I have a private lead service line, is it also possible that I have lead plumbing in my house?

A: Interior pipes typically are not fabricated from lead, however, many older fixtures, pipe fittings, valves and solder may contain lead. In at least one study, galvanized (zinc-coated) pipes were found to be a significant long-term source of lead in water.

Q: What is the City’s current practice when disrupting lead service lines?

A: The City of Elgin provides bilingual door hangers that outline steps to minimize lead exposure following service interruption. 

Q: Why were the three construction projects of the 2018 capital program postponed?

A: The three projects were postponed, so a citywide policy could be developed regarding lead service line disturbances.

Q: What regulations are currently in place (Federal, state, etc)? Is Elgin following the law?

A: There are many state and federal regulations that apply to drinking water quality. The specific regulation that applies to lead in drinking water is the Lead and Copper Rule. The City of Elgin follows all Federal and State regulations related to the Lead and Copper Rule.

Q: Why is my service line made of lead?

A: Prior to 1965, standard practice was to use lead pipe for service lines. While many water service lines post-1965 were installed with copper piping, regulations still allowed the installation of lead service lines up to the mid-1980s.

Q: What has changed in the industry? Why was this not an issue for last year's projects?

A: Recent research has indicated that partial lead service line replacement may temporarily increase the amount of lead released during service line disruption. Given this research, the City Council decided to reevaluate the City’s approach to lead service line replacement.

Q: What other ways can people be exposed to lead?

A: Lead based paint and lead-contaminated dusts are the most common sources of lead exposure; other sources include contaminated air and soil.

Q: How do I know if my house has a lead service line?

A: The City of Rockford has defined a three-step process to determine if a service line is lead which can be located here. If a resident does not have access to the Internet, a printout of the three-step process can be obtained at City Hall.

Q: What if I want to replace my portion of the service line but can’t afford to?

A: If there is a planned construction project, or emergency repair at your address, you will be eligible for the Voluntary Lead Pipe Replacement Program option for up to $4800 zero-interest loan. The loan will need to be repaid in at a rate of $80 per month for up to 5 years. Low-to moderate-income residents can repay at $40 per month.

Q: If I do not live in a home with lead service lines, should I be concerned my fees will increase to pay for private lead service line replacements?

A: No. The burden of private lead service line replacements will fall on the property owners that have the lead service lines.

Q: If I am a renter, am I, or is my landlord responsible for the replacement of the private portion of the lead service line?

A: Landlords are responsible for providing tenants with written notice of the decision regarding the three options in the program. 

Q: If my neighborhood recently had water main work done, am I eligible for the program loan?

A: No. You may still replace your portion of the service line at any time, but the program loan is not available to you.