Franklin Park hires consultants to conduct water pipe surveys, part of effort to get the potential health hazards removed – Chicago Tribune

A long term project to identify and eventually remove all lead containing water supplies in Franklin Park has recently begun.

At its May 16 meeting, the Village Board approved a one-year, $150,000 contract with local engineering firm Smith LaSalle to conduct a community survey to determine which of the estimated 2,000 water supply lines are made of lead.

The suburb of around 18,000 people is south of O’Hare International Airport and, according to officials, has no lead water pipes in the ground.

“If there’s a lead pipe, it could be found running from the village’s main utility line to the dwellings,” village engineer Tom McCabe said. “We’re trying to find out.”

The poll, now ongoing, is asking Franklin Park homeowners to let the village know if the water pipes going into their homes are made of copper, galvanized steel or lead.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are more susceptible to the adverse health effects of lead, which can include hyperactivity, low IQ, slowed growth, anemia, and learning, behavioral, and hearing problems.

On August 27, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act, requiring an inventory and disconnection of all lead lines supplying potable water in Illinois. The pipe replacement must then be completed on a schedule based on the size of the community.

In the case of Franklin Park, state law requires a final inventory of the village’s lead pipes to be submitted to a state advisory board by April 15, 2024, and a replacement plan to be submitted by 2027. Lead pipe replacement then must be carried out at a rate of 6% per year and may not take longer than 17 years to final completion.

State law also mandates the replacement of galvanized steel pipe that may be downstream from lead pipe.

“We’re not talking about Flint, Michigan here in Franklin Park,” said village president Barrett Pedersen. “We just send out a survey to people to let the village know what kind of service line they have. Assuming we get the surveys back in a few months, then we’ll know which houses are having lead pipes coming into the house and needing to be replaced.”

The surveys, which are sent with water bills and are available on the village’s website, can be returned by post, in person or by email, officials said.

In addition to preparing the water main survey, Smith LaSalle’s contract also specifies that the company will tabulate the results, follow up on those that do not return surveys, update the village’s water main atlas, and prepare engineering plans and a multi-year replacement plan, among other requirements.

Officials report that funding for the project will come from a variety of sources, including a portion of the EPA through the $2.9 billion in bipartisan Infrastructure Act funding for replacement of leading service lines available this year.

Other federal grants for lead pipe replacement are eligible from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act Grants, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act 5, and the US Housing and Urban Development Community Block Grant Program EPA.

Federal estimates put the number of lead water supply lines in the United States at six to ten million. Of these, Illinois is estimated to have more lead plumbing than any other state in the nation, with at least 686,000 connections to the water supply.

According to a Chicago Tribune report, Chicago has 400,000 lead water pipes, the most in the country for a major city.

“Given that there are multiple sources of funding and the time it takes to prepare, review and approve engineering plans, I don’t think we’ll start renewal in the next few years,” Pedersen said. “Even so, I would say that Franklin Park will begin replacing pipes much sooner than the state expects.”

In a news release, the Illinois Environmental Council said projects to replace lead utility lines could provide a major boost to employment across the state. Citing a 2020 analysis by the Metropolitan Planning Council, the group said about 11,225 jobs per year could be created in the trades, with over $1 billion in economic activity related to lead pipe replacement.

Gary Gibula is a freelancer.

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