The Village of Wilmette is paying close attention to the recent news related to lead and drinking water such as the one in Flint, MI.
Although a full detailed picture about what occurred in Flint is not yet available, it appears that switching of the water supply source from the City of Detroit to the Flint River is responsible for this crisis. Additionally, important steps to ensure that the changed water chemistry would not cause corrosion in plumbing do not appear to have been taken. This new water caused lead to leach from service lines and home plumbing into the drinking water.
The Village of Wilmette would like to assure its customers that a lead/corrosion control program has been in place for over 25 years. This program incorporates applying the EPA recommended corrosion control treatment at the Village’s water treatment plant, and periodic rounds of sampling and testing of lead levels in drinking water at approved homes by Illinois EPA (IEPA) to measure the treatment effectiveness. The Village has maintained compliance with this regulation since its inception.
We have composed several questions and answers to provide you more information on lead and drinking water.
What is Wilmette doing about lead and corrosion control?
Finished water leaving the Wilmette water treatment plant historically has had no detectable lead. However, lead exposure in drinking water can come from plumbing materials in homes and their service lines (as explained in the next Q&A). Therefore, as part of the lead/corrosion control program mentioned above, the Village conducts periodic rounds of sampling and testing of lead levels in drinking water from approved homes (with certain plumbing material characteristics) by the IEPA.
In accordance with IEPA requirements, the Village of Wilmette conducts triennial sampling and testing for lead in households throughout the Village.
In the last sampling and testing round (2020), the 90th percentile value for the Wilmette water system was well below the EPA established lead action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
The lead levels, if any, are completely unique to each home due to its plumbing materials, such as the presence of lead solder or brass faucets, fittings and valves that may contain lead. Our treatment works to keep corrosion of pipes as low as possible (corrosive water can cause lead to leach from plumbing materials that contain lead) and there are actions you can take to reduce exposure. We strongly urge you to take the steps below to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.
Under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the USEPA set the action level for lead in drinking water at 15 ppb. This means utilities must ensure that water from the customer’s tap does not exceed this level in at least 90 percent of the homes sampled (90th percentile value).
What is lead? How does lead get into my water supply?
Lead is a toxic metal that is widespread in the environment and can be absorbed from a variety of sources (paint, food, soil, air and water).
Lead in the water supply does not come from the treatment plant and water mains but rather from the plumbing that is located between the inside of a house and the water main in the street (typically referred to as the service line). Generally, there are three sources that could leach lead into the drinking water:
• Lead Service Lines
A service line is the pipe that connects your house to the water main in the street. Some service lines that run from older homes (usually those built before 1940) to the utility water main are made from lead. Over time, some of these older service lines have been replaced, but many homes could still have one.
• Lead-tin solder joined copper pipes
• Household faucets and fixtures
Please check with your certified plumber to identify any sources of lead in your home.
How can I reduce my exposure to lead in drinking water?
• Before using water for drinking or cooking, flush the cold water faucet by allowing the water to run until the water has become as cold as it will get (usually 2-3 minutes). Do this for any faucet used for drinking or cooking.
• Another recommendation for reducing lead exposure is to never cook with or drink water from the hot-water tap. Hot water dissolves lead more quickly than cold water. So, do not use water taken from the hot tap for cooking or drinking and especially not for making baby formula.
• Clean and remove any debris from faucet aerators to clear any particles of lead that may become trapped in the aerator.
• Do not boil water to reduce lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
• Identify your plumbing fixtures that contain lead and replace them with lead free fixtures.
• You may want to consider purchasing a water filter. Read the package to be sure the filter is certified to remove “total lead”, or contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters.
What are the health effects of lead?
Excessive levels of lead can damage the brain, kidneys, nervous system, red blood cells and reproductive system. The degree of harm is directly related to the level of lead in the blood (from all sources). Known effects of exposure to lead range from subtle changes in body chemistry and nervous system functions at low levels of exposure, to severe toxic effects or even death at very high levels associated with acute poisoning. Some harmful effects are reversible if exposure is reduced, while other harmful effects can be permanent. Young children, infants and fetuses appear to be particularly vulnerable to harmful effects of lead. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a big effect on a small child. Also, growing children will more rapidly absorb any lead they consume. A child’s mental and physical development can be irreversibly stunted by overexposure to lead.
Can you test my water for lead?
The Wilmette water plant laboratory is not certified to analyze for metals. If you would like to test your water for lead, please contact a certified lab. The typical cost of lead analysis is about $30-$50. The Illinois EPA maintains a list of environmental labs accredited to perform water testing including lead.
You also can find contact information for testing your water for lead by calling EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
Where can I get more Information?
For more information on lead and health, you may visit the CDC webpage on lead:
To learn and identify lead free plumbing and certification in plumbing materials:
To learn about home water testing facts, see this EPA Q&A:
To learn more on how to reduce lead exposure around your home (not just drinking water) and the health effects of lead, contact your health provider and visit:
EPA lead web page: http://www.epa.gov/lead
Or the National Lead Information Center (800-424-LEAD): http://www.epa.gov/lead/forms/lead-hotline-national-lead-information-center
Please contact the Wilmette water plant laboratory if you have any additional questions at (847) 853-7532.