The City of Rockford is taking advantage of a federal program that will pay to replace aging lead water pipes.
The City secured a $2 million Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) State Revolving Loan that does not need to be paid back. Because the City meets certain median household income requirements, the loan is forgivable once the work is completed. The money is being used to accelerate the City’s lead service replacement program.
Over the next five years, Rockford Water plans to replace about 2,500 of its 14,000 known lead service lines, focusing on the highest risk pipes first. The $2 million is expected to cover work that started in July and will go through spring. The City plans to apply for another loan to continue the program once the $2 million is used. It will take several years to replace all the lead lines.
The City is taking a three-prong approach to the overall project in Rockford's oldest areas. The first way is to address the high-risk or oldest lead service lines. The second is to replace lead lines during capital improvement projects, which reduces restoration costs. The third is to replace the lead lines when there are maintenance issues like a service leak.
With the help of Fehr Graham, the City is the first in the state to qualify for this program using an adaptive management approach, developed by Rockford Water and Fehr Graham, to replace the pipes. This approach means the City can get easements from property owners as they encounter high-risk lines, allowing them to replace them more quickly and efficiently and be more responsive to system needs.
“Rockford Water is proud and excited to be at the forefront of lead service line replacement in the state,” said Kyle Saunders, Public Works Director. “The team at Fehr Graham helped us seize this opportunity to upgrade our aging water system at no cost to our ratepayers.”
The IEPA has strict guidelines regarding the amount of lead allowed in the water. While Rockford’s water is well within safe limits, its system is more than 100 years old. Lead was a common material used when the system was built. Studies show that the lead from the pipes can corrode into the water, making it harmful to users. Because of this, the EPA is beginning to require that cities replace lead pipes with lines made of approved plumbing material. Upgrading Rockford’s system will improve water quality for residents.
The City maintains an interactive map that shows the locations of the lead service lines. For more information about the lead service line replacements, contact the City at 779.348.7151.