New state grant program meant to aid Illinois communities with lead-lined water pipes inventory

Some of the piping and tanks at well 10, tower two located at 1723 North Main Street in Sycamore.

DeKALB – The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency announced the Lead Service Line Inventory Grant Program on Tuesday, a new funding opportunity meant to aid communities in identifying water infrastructure lined with lead for replacement.

The state grants are meant to go toward municipalities to meet the requirements of the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act.

The new Lead Service Line Inventory Grant Program will offer between $20,000 and $50,000 in grants to help local governments fund the creation of an inventory of lead service water lines, according to a Tuesday news release from the agency.

The Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act mandates the owners and operators of community water supplies deliver a complete inventory of water service line materials used in their distribution system to the agency by April 15, 2024.

The program will help cover the costs communities incur while seeking to meet the mandate of the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act.

“While it is imperative for communities to have a complete inventory identifying the types of water lines that exist in their drinking water supplies, we know that for many, especially our rural, low-income and disadvantaged communities, this is an added financial burden,” John J. Kim, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said in a news release.

In 2021, 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.

DeKalb County municipalities, such as the city of Sycamore, already have invested time and resources into the creation of a water service line inventory. In August, the city of Sycamore was awarded a $4 million loan – which included $4 million in principle forgiveness – by the agency for a second round of lead water service line replacements planned for city residents. The state funding is meant to help pay for Sycamore to replace lead-service lines at no cost to area residents. In July, the city of Genoa sought participation from residents to help create the mandated water service line inventory. In March, DeKalb officials earmarked $1.1 million in COVID-19 relief funds to replace about 200 water service lines.

The agency expects to award $2 million to Illinois communities through somewhere between 40 and 100 grants, the release states. However, the funding through the grant program will be limited to $50,000 per applicant.

The agency, according to the release, anticipates some applicants of the grant program will require supplemental funding to meet the requirements of the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act. Understanding that fact, the agency said applicants needing supplemental funding may request a low-interest loan through the agency’s Public Water Supply Loan Program.

The idea behind these programs is to help Illinois localities be able to afford the work needed to establish what water lines need to be replaced.

“Through these grants, we will provide funding to many of these communities to help meet the inventory requirements outlined in the law,” Kim said.

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