Lead Service Line Replacement FAQ's

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 five 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 100 sample sites throughout the community every six months.

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.  The City is currently undergoing a corrosion control study to ensure optimal water stability.

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 100 buildings throughout the community every six months, 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. Beginning in 2022, during City funded projects or emergency repairs, the City will work with residents to replace the private portion of the 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). Beginning in 2022, during City funded projects or emergency repairs, the City will work with residents to replace the remaining portion of the line (from the b-box/shutoff valve into the home).

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 five 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 five 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: 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 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.


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