Elgin gives 3 options regarding lead pipes starting in 2019

  • Elgin's new ordinance approved Wednesday requires property owners to replace lead pipes when water main work takes place nearby. That applies to the portion of lead pipes on private property running from the property line to the water meter, not lead pipes inside homes.

    Elgin's new ordinance approved Wednesday requires property owners to replace lead pipes when water main work takes place nearby. That applies to the portion of lead pipes on private property running from the property line to the water meter, not lead pipes inside homes. courtesy city of Elgin

 
 
Updated 12/20/2018 6:06 PM

Starting next year, Elgin property owners will have to replace lead pipes on their properties or sign a waiver and commit to drinking bottled or filtered water for two years when the city does construction work nearby.

The Elgin City Council approved the new ordinance Wednesday night after a discussion that started in April. Construction work -- not just water main work, but road work and sewer installation that can shake water pipes -- can result in lead particles coming loose and contaminating the water for a period of time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Property owners will be notified before any construction begins and will be given three options:

• Hire a plumber of their choice to replace their lead service lines at their own cost.

• Use a plumber approved by the city -- property owners must get at least two quotes and select the lowest -- and get a zero-interest loan of up to $4,800. The loan repayment will be $80 per month for up to five years; low- to moderate-income residents can repay the loan in up to 10 years at $40 per month. There also will be a one-time $50 service fee.

• Sign a waiver and commit, for two years, to drinking bottled water or using filtered water. The city will provide a free water filter pitcher or faucet-mounted water filter with four replacement cartridges. Once the water main work is done, the city will test the water for the presence of lead within 30 days, and retest at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. Property owners will be charged for the five tests, or an estimated $1,000 in total.

Water Director Eric Weiss said he expects the first notification letters to be mailed to property owners in January. Construction work could begin as early as March, including along Lord Street and East Chicago Street, he said.

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Landlords will be required to inform tenants about their plans. Property owners who don't comply with any of the three options, or fail to repay the loan, can get their water shut off, the ordinance states.

If the city has to perform emergency water main or pipe work, property owners will be given water filters and will have six months to select one of the three options, Weiss said.

Councilman John Steffen said he's received questions from property owners, and wants it to be clear the new rule only applies to the portion of lead pipes on private property running from the property line to the water meter, not lead pipes inside homes.

The city council approved the ordinance at the advice of City Manager Rick Kozal, who cited directives from the Illinois Department of Public Health and possible legislation next year regarding lead pipes. The city also wanted to have a plan in place before moving forward next year with the reconstruction of East Chicago Street, which includes a deadline to apply for a $2.5 million federal grant.

"We are not doing this to people because we want to," Councilman Terry Gavin said. "We are doing it because it's in their best interest and it's public health."

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