By Melinda Czifrak
More than a year after testing showed lead in Berwyn residents’ water, the city is continuing to waive tap fees for people concerned about lead in the water.
According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, particularly where the water has “high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures.” Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and plumbing.
In other words, the lead is not in the water, but in pipes and fixtures.
The water itself is lead free when it comes into Berwyn from Lake Michigan and flows through the city’s 100 miles of cast-iron pipes.
In 2015, the City included this information in an open letter addressed to residents by Public Works Director Robert Schiller.
“None of the City’s water mains contain lead,” Schiller said. “The City of Berwyn completed 124 water tests for lead in 2015. All tests were within the IEPA range of satisfactory results.”
Still, to reassure residents, Schiller went on to say that the City of Berwyn would waive fees for residents who replace lead water pipes that connect their homes to water mains.
More recently, in May of this year, the city announced that, in an effort to “promote better health through clean water,” residents are encouraged to “test and replace their lead water services.”
“Again, over the next 12 months, the city will waive the tap connection fee if an unsafe level of lead is found in residences,” Schiller said.
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which “no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety.” These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks, are called “maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs).” EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is “a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.” Lead is persistent, and it can accumulate in the body over time.
People who are concerned can get their water tested for lead.
The city uses Suburban Laboratories for testing at drinkingwaterlabs.com or by phone at 708-544-3260, according to a City of Berwyn news release. Testing costs between $20 and $100.
Others have just bought water filters.
“I have bought water filters after reading an article about it,” Berwyn resident Marco Torres said. “I have young children at home and I want the water they drink to be clean, so as to not cause any health problems.”
Torres isn’t the only Berwyn resident who has taken extra precautions to keep the water free of lead.
“This has been a widely debated subject in my neighborhood,” Matthew Klein said. “We all agreed that, for our own peace of mind, filters were the best option, at least until an actual long-term solution comes along.”
The next scheduled IEPA testing for lead by the City of Berwyn is during the calendar year 2018.