Delivering safe and high-quality drinking water to over 150,000 residents and businesses is core to the Village’s operation. In alignment with that mission, the Village adheres to all state and federal regulations including a new state law prohibiting partial lead and galvanized line replacements; this new law went into effect on January 1, 2022. In addition, the Village is required to perform a water service line material inventory by 2024.
Water service line materials used throughout Wilmette include copper, galvanized pipe, and lead. In the past it has been common practice to complete partial line replacements when a lead or galvanized service line breaks or leaks. These partial replacements are no longer allowed due to risks caused by the disruption in the line. For all lead or galvanized service line repairs, the entire line now must be replaced.
Water Service Inventory
The Act also requires Wilmette to keep an updated inventory of the type of material used for each service line. The inventory results will be used to develop a long-term plan to address existing lead service lines.
Water Service Information
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). If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. The degree of harm is directly related to the level of lead in the blood. Excessive levels of lead can damage the brain, kidneys, nervous system, red blood cells and reproductive system.
The use of lead for water service lines was prevalent into the 1960s and finally restricted in 1986 when Congress imposed the Safe Drinking Water Act. In 1991, the EPA published the final lead and copper rule which established the action level for lead and copper in drinking water.
Finished water leaving the Wilmette water treatment plant historically has had no detectable lead. 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 water main in the street and the inside of a house (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 – Copper piping has often been used since the 1930’s for home plumbing, but the solder (an alloy of tin with lead and antimony) used to fuse the pipes together typically contained elevated levels of lead prior to 1986, the year it was banned.
- Household faucets and fixtures – Lead can also corrode from metal faucets and fixtures made from brass, an alloy of copper and zinc that often contains lead impurities, including chrome-plated brass fixtures. Therefore, a home with no copper or lead pipe could have elevated lead levels due to brass fixtures. Plumbing fixtures with a lead content of less than 8% used to be legally defined as “lead free” but since 2014, “lead free” refers to fixtures with a lead content of 0.25% or less.