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City mulls replacement options for water lines

Megann Horstead, Reporter – news@thetimesweekly.com | 11/7/2018, 3:55 p.m.
The city of Joliet is looking to be proactive as it regards efforts to make sure drinking water remains safe. ...

The city of Joliet is looking to be proactive as it regards efforts to make sure drinking water remains safe.

At Monday’s meeting of the Joliet Public Service Committee, staff provided an update on options for replacing the lead service lines.

Director of Public Utilities Allyson Swisher said it’s important to come up with a plan.

“We, here, wanted to be very proactive in our approach to how we address lead service lines,” she said.

In recent years, talk of efforts to maintain safe drinking water came into focus nationally with Flint Mich. and its issues with lead.

The city of Joliet has banned the use of lead in water pumped from its wells since the 1930s.

“There’s no actual lead in the water that we take out of the ground that our wells pump,” Swisher said.

In accordance with Environmental Protection Agency’s lead and copper rule of 1991, the city has been required to perform sampling for the two elements and take other measures for the purpose of monitoring.

Results of lead and copper sampling for this year showed that Joliet did not exceed the limit.

“The lead is coming from the piping material that’s only found in service lines,” Swisher said.

The city adds orthophosphates to the water tank and the inside of the lead service line pipes, in accordance with the lead and copper rule.

“As long as they’re not disturbed, it acts as a barrier to prevent the lead from getting into the water,” Swisher said.

Swisher referenced proposed state legislation dealing with municipal replacement of lead service lines said we “can’t just sit back and wait for legislators to tell us what we need to do.”

Staff developed three possible replacement options for the city’s lead service lines.

The first scenario involves a full lead service line replacement, in conjunction with the city’s five-year water main replacement program.

Costs would be absorbed in the city’s budget.

The second scenario uses the city’s leak detection process to help pave the way for the full lead service line replacement.

Swisher said in this case, the difference is the city would need to include an added $350,000 in the 2019 budget.

The third scenario, as proposed, will address suspected areas identified by homeowners by having lead sampling completed to help determine if a service line replacement is necessary.

Swisher said the city would cover the public portion of the work to be performed, and the homeowner would cover the private portion.

The city currently offers no-interest loan assistance to homeowners who wish to have lead service lines replaced.

At its next meeting, the Joliet Public Service Committee will take another look at its options for replacing lead service lines.