SYCAMORE – The city of Sycamore has been awarded a $4 million loan by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for another round of lead water service line replacements planned for city residents.
“This is similar to the first project,” City Engineer Mark Bushnell said.
The IEPA provided the city of Sycamore with a $1.6 million loan in December 2021 for the replacement of lead residential service lines. The initial project, as well as the new one, will allow residents with lead water service lines to have the lines servicing their homes replaced at no cost. This effort comes on the heels of state legislation passed last year, and a lengthy saga of water quality concerns documented by Sycamore residents.
With the funding for the first project reaching its limits after replacement of about 120 service lines, the city is now seeking to get residents input for the new initiative.
“In preparation for the project, we are asking residents to visit our website and complete a short survey in order to get added to the program,” Bushnell said.
The survey can be found at cityofsycamore.com/water-service-material-survey/, where residents are asked to help identify what material the water lines to their homes are made with. If lead is the material and if applicable, according to the website, city staff will assist those residents in signing up for replacement at no cost to the homeowners. If unknown, city staff said they can help identify the service line materials.
About a year ago, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act. The law, which was created to minimize potential lead exposure caused by contaminated drinking water and aging pipe infrastructure, requires Illinois water systems to begin removal of lead service lines no later than Jan. 1, 2027. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any amount of lead exposure can be damaging to a person’s brain.
Some residents of the city of Sycamore have used a Facebook group, Citizens for Clean Water Sycamore, Illinois to advocate for local officials to address concerns about the water in Sycamore since at least 2020. A class action lawsuit was also filed in October 2020 against the city, with residents alleging “unlawful and wrongful conduct,” after some water test results showed elevated levels of lead in several Sycamore homes. As a result, the IEPA has required Sycamore to undergo more regular water testing of area pipelines.
The second round of IEPA funding for Sycamore utilizes a $4 million loan, which includes $4 million of principal forgiveness for the city of Sycamore.
According to the existing service material inventory, the material used for water service lines at 1,017 addresses in the city of Sycamore are still unknown. The inventory also shows 239 addresses have lead lined water service lines.
The city of Sycamore has already posted a survey on the project to its website and various social media accounts in hopes of learning what it can from city residents.
“Our goal is to replace as many services as we can with the allotted funding,” Bushnell said.