Elgin looking at plan for lead service lines on private property
Elgin is working on a plan to replace private lead service lines when they are affected by water main replacements and other city work.
During a special meeting this week, the city council's committee of the whole heard recommendations from Water Director Eric Weiss and consultants from Engineering Enterprises for a plan to give property owners three options to do the work.
They are: hire a plumber of their choice to replace their lead service lines; use a plumber approved by the city and get a loan from the city repayable over five years; or sign a waiver and commit, for two years, to drinking bottled water or using a water filter pitcher supplied by the city along with two initial cartridges.
It would cost property owners $3,000 to $4,200 to replace their lead service lines, consultant Jeffrey Freeman said. With a no-interest loan, homeowners would pay an average $102.47 per month for five years, he said. If the city charges interest, low-income residents could get more favorable loan terms such as a lower interest rate of extended payback periods, he said.
Resident Todd Martin said certain landlords might have less incentive to take on the work if they don't live on the premises.
The city's legal department will draft an ordinance to be reviewed by the city council at a later date.
Each year, Elgin replaces about 150 lead service lines on city property -- but not those on private property -- as it conducts water main replacement and other projects.
The city's replacement costs is $5,300 to $8,000. Replacing all lead service lines on public and private property would come at a $114 million price tag, the consultants said.
City Manage Rick Kozal said the city treats its water so it's safe to drink even with lead pipes. However, construction work can result in lead particles coming loose and contaminating the water for a period of time.
This year, due to uncertainty regarding pending legislation and directives from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the city decided to put on hold three major capital projects, including work along Chicago Street, and come up with a plan of action.
Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, commended Elgin for being proactive. The city of Evanston also offers a lead service replacement program with similar options.
The council worked with state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago to introduce Senate Bill 3080 this year, Walling said. The bill would have mandated municipalities to create within a year a plan to replace all lead water service lines -- public and private -- within 10 years.
"I don't know that we intend to pursue it anymore before next year," Walling said. Any future bill would require communities to map their lead services lines within two years and set their own replacement deadlines, to be approved by the state, she said. "There will be more incentive to do more service line replacement if we get it funded," she said.
Michigan recently decided to require water utilities to replace all public and private lead service lines within 20 years, but Illinois has many more lead service lines than Michigan, with half a million alone in Chicago, Walling said.