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Lead Service Line Information

Service lines are underground water pipes that connect homes or buildings to a source of drinking water such as a water main or private well. Water service lines are generally jointly owned by water supplies and property owners. When these service lines are made of lead, they can be significant contributors to lead contamination of drinking water. Under Public Act 099-0922 which took effect in 2017, community water supplies in Illinois have been required to submit annual service line material inventories to IEPA.

The Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act

To address the known and unknown burden of lead service lines in the state, the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act, Public Act 102-0613, was passed. This Act requires community water supplies to continue inventorying activities while developing and implementing plans to identify and remove lead service lines. In addition, it requires community water supplies to give owners and occupants notifications about lead service lines serving their homes or buildings and construction activities that may release lead into drinking water. The Act also prohibits partial lead service line replacement except in certain circumstances.

Lead Service Lines

Service lines are plumbing as defined by the Illinois Plumbing License Law. When being repaired or replaced, they should be installed by individuals authorized by the Law and in accordance with the requirements of the Illinois Plumbing Code. Additionally, before being covered or used, service lines should be inspected by a licensed plumber in accordance with the requirements in the Illinois Plumbers Licensing Code.

Partial Lead Service Line Replacements

Public Act 102-0613 prohibits partial lead service line replacements except in certain circumstances because partial lead service line replacements can increase lead levels for long periods of time. Partial lead service line replacement means replacement of only a portion of a lead service line. Studies show that partial lead service line replacements can increase the amount of lead in a building’s drinking water. Following partial repair, lead levels increase and construction activities such as digging and cutting release particulate lead. Particulate lead is a concern because the lead content can be very high. Additionally, new materials from partial lead service line replacements can increase corrosion or create galvanic corrosion which can also increase the amount of lead in the building’s drinking water.

Health Effects

Exposure to lead is harmful to health, especially for young children (under the age of six). A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. Many effects are permanent.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

IDPH recommends following these important steps identified by USEPA to reduce lead in drinking water:

Have your water tested

Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether lead is present.

Learn if you have a lead service line

Contact your water utility or a licensed plumber to determine if the pipe that connects your home to the water main (called a service line) is made from lead.

Run your water

Before drinking, flush your home’s pipes by running the tap. The amount of time to run the water will depend on whether your home has a lead service line or not, and the length of the lead service line. Residents should contact their water utility for recommendations about flushing times in their community.

Learn about construction in your neighborhood

Be aware of any construction or maintenance work that could disturb your lead service line. Construction may cause more lead to be released from a lead service line. Pay attention to notifications from your water supplier about construction that may produce sediment possibly containing lead.

Use cold water

Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Remember, boiling water does not remove lead from water.

Clean your aerator

Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator) with a vinegar and water mixture. Sediment, debris, and lead particles can collect in your aerator. If lead particles are caught in the aerator, lead can get into your water.

Use your filter properly

If you use a filter, make sure you use a filter certified to remove lead (NSF/ANSI Standard 53) and particulates (NSF/ANSI Standard 42). Read the directions to learn how to properly install and use your cartridge and when to replace it. Using the cartridge after it has expired can make it less effective at removing lead. Do not run hot water through the filter.