Illinois American Water needs residents’ help in identifying lead service lines

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:24 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PEORIA (25News Now) - A legislative act within Illinois’s Environmental Protection Agency requires all lead service lines in the City of Peoria to be removed.

Illinois American Water presented its stance on the process to the Peoria City Council on Tuesday. The company says it has been removing lead main service lines in Peoria over the past ten years, but now it’s looking at the lines that branch off and connect to homes.

Illinois American Water says lead was a common plumbing material used primarily between 1920 and 1940, but if it corrodes, it can create health risks to people who accidentally consume it.

Michael Brown, the Illinois EPA Division Manager for Drinking Water Supplies, says the Environmental Protection Act section 17.12 asks for Illinois American Water’s inventory of lead water lines in the area and requests their ultimate removal.

Brown says companies are already required to put corrosion control treatment in the water to help protect it as it travels delivery lines into your home faucet, but removing all lead lines removes its risk from the core.

“We’re just taking this another step forward to make sure that we remove all of that source so that we don’t have any breakdown. It’s a multi-barrier approach,” said Brown.

Illinois American Water staffers say they found lead water lines in Peoria that they assume were installed in the 1960s before lead lines got banned in 1987, so the utility has been focusing on the more historic sections of Peoria when searching for these lead service lines, but its customers’ help is needed.

“There’s no way, shape, or form we can touch every property in Peoria to determine what’s inside. We need customers to help us,” said Melissa Litteken, an Illinois American Water spokeswoman who presented to the Peoria City Council.

They’re asking customers to take the time to identify whether their water pipes are lead, copper, brass, plastic, or galvanized steel.

The first step is to locate the service line near the shut-off valve. The second step is to take a magnet and see if it sticks to your pipe. If it sticks, your pipe is galvanized steel, but if it doesn’t, there is still a possibility it’s lead. If the magnet does not stick, the third step is to scratch the pipe with a coin. If the pipe reveals a shiny color, that could mean it’s lead. Illinois American Water is asking customers to take a picture and send it to the company for review.

Litteken told the council on Tuesday that the company sends physical mail and emails to people who live in the suspected lead line areas with explanations on what to look for.

In the meantime, Illinois American Water provides steps you can take to minimize the risk of lead, such as:

  • If the water in the faucet has gone unused for more than six hours, flush your tap before drinking or cooking. The longer the water lies in the plumbing, the more lead it might contain.
  • Try not to cook with or drink water from the hot water faucet. Hot water has the potential to contain more lead than cold water.
  • Routinely clean faucet screens. Sediment and metals can collect in the faucet screen at the tip of your faucets.

Brown says Illinois American Water must have its full inventory of lead service lines and plan to replace those lines with the state EPA by April 2024.