Daily file photo of Noah Frick-Alofs
As part of a nationwide project to move away from lead pipes, city councils discussed ways to improve affordability for homeowners looking to replace their lead water pipes.
After the Flint Water Crisis in 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued the Lead and Copper Rule. This will partially ban lead service lines after 2024.
In coordination with the new ordinance, the city plans to replace all leading parts of the city’s water supply pipeline, including a tight city budget. This year the city plans eight separate aqueduct improvement projects that are expected to cost the city $ 4.5 million. However, the city only pays for the public parts of the aqueduct. Parts on private land must be paid for at the homeowner’s expense.
Currently, Evanston’s Lead Service Replacement Loan Program offers homeowners up to $ 4,800 interest-free loans to replace lead pipe. According to the city’s website, the average cost to replace it is around $ 7,000.
The council is now looking for ways to make the loan program more affordable.
Dave Stoneback, the director of the city’s public works agency, said city officials are currently recommending replacing piping on Ewing Ave. to postpone so that more funds can be made available to private homeowners.
The Ewing Ave. project is estimated to cost the city $ 370,000. If this is postponed, the city will be able to use that money towards the existing lead loan program.
The loan program, which includes an application fee of $ 50, has been in existence for three years, but only 21 residents have received loans out of a total of 301 replacement contracts. To further encourage homeowners to replace their plumbing, the city is considering increasing the maximum amount of the loan or providing grants to economically disadvantaged homeowners.
“This could be a really significant cost that people don’t expect,” Ald said. Tom Suffredin (6th) said. “It comes at a time when you as a homeowner may not be planning. Anything we could do to tailor the loan program to the potential real cost would be great. ”
Stoneback also recommended to the council that the city staff define various economic brackets, such as: B. economically disadvantaged, economically disadvantaged and economically stable, and then develop various incentives tailored to the needs of residents.
According to Stoneback, builders in Evanston stopped using lead in water supply lines in the 1980s, but the material had long been used in Chicago and other parts of the country.
“Copper doesn’t get into the water as quickly as lead, so it’s not as much of a problem,” said Stoneback. “However, no other product is known, so copper is the material that is used to replace water.”
In December, The Daily published a comprehensive look at Evanston’s water sampling, which revealed that the water in the 5th Ward was not fair checked for lead and copper due to loopholes in the new EPA regulation. The reporting passed the city council in January mandate a solution for fairer tests.
According to Stoneback, more than 55 percent of Evanston’s aqueduct is over 80 years old. Currently, the city plans to replace 1 percent of the aqueduct – or a mile and a half – every year.
“These can be great ticket items for people who don’t have them.” Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said. Wilson also said the city should set up financial assistance for residents who need to repair sewer pipes.
Part of the challenge with private replacement projects is that state law mandates a vertical gap of 18 inches for at least 10 feet between water and sewer lines, which means that contractors must pay extra attention to sewer location when replacing lead water lines, said Stoneback.
As the city works to replace its lead pipes in the long term, Stoneback said Evanston residents shouldn’t worry about drinking their water.
“There is no danger at this point,” he said. “Our water is safe.”
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Twitter: @ Jasonbeeferman
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