South suburban towns receive grants for lead pipe inventory, but … – Chicago Tribune

Ten Southland communities will receive state grants for tens of thousands of dollars to create a lead service line inventory, but area officials say more money will be needed to replace lead pipes.

The grant is part of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Service Line Inventory grant, which range from $20,000 to $50,000 to create a complete lead service line inventory, according to an agency news release.

Alsip, Blue Island, Chicago Heights and Dolton each received a $50,000 grant and Hazel Crest, Markham, South Chicago Heights, Steger, Burnham and Robbins each received a $40,000 grant, according to the news release.

Forty eight communities received grant funding, for a total of $2 million, to help meet the requirements outlined in the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act, which requires owners and operators of community water supplies in Illinois to submit a complete water service line inventory for Illinois EPA approval no later than April 15, 2024.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director John Kim said the agency received 101 grant applications from villages and cities across the state, more than available funding could cover.

“This funding will provide many communities with the necessary funding to develop a complete inventory identifying the types of water lines that exist in their drinking water supplies,” Kim said.

Village and town officials can request additional funding through the Illinois EPA’s Public Water Supply Loan Program low-interest loan, according to the release. In the coming weeks, it’s expected more funding through this program will be announced, Kim said in the release.

State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, voted in favor for the Lead Service Line Replacement Notification Act in 2021, which establishes timelines and requirements for the removal and replacement of lead pipes in Illinois.

Joyce, who represents Chicago Heights, South Chicago Heights and Steger, said the act also creates a low-income water assistance program to help fund lead pipe replacement.

“Safe, clean drinking water is a resource that all people should have access to,” Joyce said. “Lead present in drinking water has shown to be very harmful to people’s health, and with this funding, our communities will be able to ensure families won’t face this problem alone.”

In Hazel Crest, Village Manager Dante Sawyer said the $40,000 will be used to inventory houses to determine if there are lead pipes.

The Public Works Department will survey the pipes, and houses without lead in pipes will receive a new water meter to help differentiate from houses with lead pipes, Sawyer said.

The village has submitted a proposal for $20 million in state funding to replace lead pipes, Sawyer said, and has so far received a $4 million loan without principal interest.

Through these lead grants, Sawyer said village officials are targeting “some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods” first while looking to replace all lead pipes throughout the village.

“Our board is very excited about the opportunity to start this project for our residents,” Sawyer said.

In Blue Island, village officials will use the $50,000 to do a full inventory of pipes in order to get information needed for eventual replacement, said Village Administrator Thomas Wogan.

“The actual costs of such a replacement would be significantly higher,” Wogan said.

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Alsip officials have already inspected 50% of the approximately 5,600 lines in the distribution system and have found no lead service lines to date, said Mayor John Ryan.

The $50,000 grant will help village officials finish surveying the remaining lines, Ryan said, to assure residents and businesses they have safe quality drinking water.

Ryan said about $1 million is budgeted annually for water main replacement and without the assistance of the EPA’s low-interest loans and principal forgiveness, it would be difficult for Dan Tryban, the city’s water commission, to maintain such extensive infrastructure replacement.

South Chicago Heights Village Administrator Nora Gomez said the lead inventory is an unfunded mandate, so village officials appreciate receiving the grant. But, the village will need more funding to begin replacing lead pipes, she said.

The village has 1,515 connections that will have to be inventoried, Gomez said, and village engineers are beginning to create a plan on how to do the inventory.

The village engineers are consider three phases of creating the inventory: review existing records to focus on areas built before 1988; a survey for residents to self report; and in-home inspections, Gomez said.

“This is only a chip at a much larger project that we have to complete,” Gomez said. “It may seem like a small grant, but it’s a huge help to get the ball rolling on this unfunded mandate.”

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February 8, 2023 at 07:07AM

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