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$4 Million in State Funds to Replace Rockford's Lead Service Lines

An image provided by the Environmental Protection Agency shows examples of a lead pipe, left, a corroded steel pipe, center, and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. The EPA is only now requiring water systems to take stock of their lead pipes, decades after new ones were banned.
Environmental Protection Agency
An image provided by the Environmental Protection Agency shows examples of a lead pipe, left, a corroded steel pipe, center, and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. The EPA is only now requiring water systems to take stock of their lead pipes, decades after new ones were banned.

Earlier this summer, the city of Rockford received $4 million dollars-worth of 100% principal forgiveness money from the Illinois EPA to replace lead service lines.

Kyle Saunder is the director of public works for the city of Rockford. He says the city has been removing lead proactively from the distribution systems since 2016. Saunders says the city has replaced just over 1000 lines over the past six years. He says the state funds should help speed the process along.

“So we would anticipate 500 to be done with this 4 million, we're obviously gearing up for replacing at least 3% of our service line each year,” said Saunders.

In Rockford that means about 450 lines annually. The state of Illinois is estimated to have some 680,000 lead-based service lines still in operation. That’s more than any other state in the nation.

The Lead Service line Replacement and Notification Act passed last year requires that medium sized cities replace at least 3% of their service lines every year. The legislation also requires that community water suppliers complete and submit a full inventory of existing lead service lines to the Illinois EPA by 2024.

The funding come from the Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund, which funds drinking water, wastewater and stormwater projects.

Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.