Lockport — The city of Lockport has sent out a request to residents and business owners to conduct water service line material surveys on their own property by Oct. 1 as part of the city’s efforts to comply with an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency mandate meant to encourage the replacement of lead pipes.
Illinois’ Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act went into effect Jan. 1, 2022, and requires state municipalities to replace lead drinking water pipes. As a first step, municipalities and water departments need to create an inventory of the service lines in their communities so they can prioritize projects and begin to set budgets for the replacements.
In order to do this, Lockport has put a survey on its website and mailed information to residents at the beginning of September with instructions on how to find their water service line entering the building and how to identify the pipe material using magnets and visual clues.
Residents are asked to identify their pipe materials through the online survey by Oct. 1 so that the city can begin creating its pipe replacement strategy.
“Lead pipes and lead soldering were pretty much discontinued by 1986, so while we want everyone to fill out the survey, if you have a house that was built post-1986, the odds are slim that you’ll have lead pipes,” Lockport Director of Public Works and Engineering Brent Cann said. “Buildings built before 1986 are more likely to need a replacement.”
Although the survey went out to everyone, Cann said, there are only a few areas where the administration is uncertain of pipe materials.
“We’ve done water main replacements in impacted areas before, so there’s only about 500 homes which are completely unaccounted for,” Cann said.
Once the city determines where pipe replacement is needed, it will begin planning the construction work.
Cann said the city is already working to budget the plan for 2024, although the scale of the work depends on the availability of grant funding.
“The state has a grant program available for replacements, and we are on a list to receive funds when they become available,” Cann said. “We’ve been told having this inventory of pipes will give us a better shot at getting those funds.”
If grant funding comes through by 2023, it is likely that most or all of the replacement work will be done in 2024, Cann said. However, if the funding is not available, the work likely will be stretched over the course of two or three years, with the city reapplying for grant funding each year to defer the costs.
“We do not anticipate this work directly impacting water rates at this time,” Cann said.
One concern of the program is public participation. Although the city will cover the costs of the pipe replacement, there have only been about 200 responses sent in on the survey so far.
“The EPA has not provided guidance on how to get people to comply, so that is a concern about getting accurate responses,” Cann said.
To incentivize participation, the city is entering anyone who submits their survey into a drawing to win one of 10 trees that the city will plant on residents’ property at no cost. The city also is making evaluation appointments available to residents who are uncertain about what they are looking for in the pipes.
An additional challenge to the work is the actual implementation of the replacements, since the law requires that the pipes going into individual buildings be replaced in addition to large water mains.
“If it’s an easy-to-access house without a lot of landscaping or a deck, then it will be fairly easy to replace the pipes and cost about $10,000,” Cann said. “Unfortunately, not all homes are easy to get to, and that could make the costs go up.”
Cann said that the project also will require some internal work in the affected buildings, which could complicate the process.
“If a resident is unwilling to comply, the EPA does provide a document they can sign saying they refuse to let the work be done on their property,” Cann said. “Obviously, we don’t want people to do that, but it is an option.”