Naperville counting lead water pipes to form replacement plan

  • Lead pipes such as this one in Galesburg can lead to water contamination, so the city of Naperville is counting how many remain in the city. A maximum of 840 buildings in the oldest portion of town could be serviced by lead lines, but 100 of those buildings already have been found not to have lead pipes.

    Lead pipes such as this one in Galesburg can lead to water contamination, so the city of Naperville is counting how many remain in the city. A maximum of 840 buildings in the oldest portion of town could be serviced by lead lines, but 100 of those buildings already have been found not to have lead pipes. AP Photo/Seth Perlman

 
 
Updated 10/27/2016 4:14 PM

Work to upgrade the phosphorus removal ability of the Springbrook Water Reclamation Center in Naperville is the biggest cost on the horizon for the city's water utility.

But an ongoing probe to determine the number of lead water service lines in the city and make plans to replace them also could come with a high price tag.

 

Spurred by the water quality crisis this spring in Flint, Michigan, Jim Holzapfel, Naperville's water and wastewater utility director, said his department began a survey to determine how many of 840 potential structures are connected to lead service lines.

Out of 150 homes and buildings tested so far, 50 have lead service lines, he said. The remaining 690 structures in the oldest portion of the city will be tested through an "in-home survey."

Excess lead in drinking water has the potential to produce dangerous contamination. Federal guidelines suggest more than 15 parts per billion of lead in a liter of water is a health hazard, particularly to children.

"There's no evidence that there is any issue with water quality," Holzapfel said.

But the city is taking inventory of its lead pipes as a precaution. Once the utility knows how many lead service lines remain, Holzapfel said his department will develop a plan "on how to get them out of the system."

He expects to bring the plan to the city council early next year along with a cost estimate and the results of a water rate study. The study will help officials decide how much to charge customers to pay for lead pipe replacement, improvements required at the city's wastewater treatment facility and other maintenance and projects.

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