The City of Highland Park has received additional results from the testing of all water fountains accessible to the public and employees. Though the drinking water supplied by the City of Highland Park Water Plant is lead-free, buildings may have elevated lead levels due to old plumbing fixtures or distribution pipes or other materials that come in contact with potable water. The City’s water production and distribution system meets or exceeds state and national standards and falls within United States and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) levels for safe use and consumption. The USEPA action level for lead is 15 parts per billion at which point remedial action is recommended.
Last month, City staff collected 170 water samples from City facilities including the Highland Park Public Library. Of 158 results received thus far, twelve additional fixtures has lead action levels over 15 ppb; one sink in the Blue Room Classroom of the Karger Center, which had a lead concentration of 16.9 ppb, five fixtures located in cells at the Police Station, which had lead concentrations ranging from 18.6 ppb – 46.8 ppb, five fixtures located in the Public Services Building, which had lead concentrations ranging from 18.4 ppb – 246 ppb, and one fixture at Ravinia Fire Station, which had a lead concentration of 23 ppb. The fixtures have been shut down until they are replaced and tested to ensure they meet or exceed safety standards. The testing also revealed ten additional fixtures that indicated lead concentrations between 5.24 ppb – 10.9 at Karger Center, the Police Department and Ravinia Fire Station. Though these results were within satisfactory standards according to the USEPA, the City also shut down both fountains as a proactive measure. The fixtures are being repaired and will not be available for use until they are remediated. The findings are isolated to specific water dispensing fixtures and are not systemic problems with the City’s water supply.
To date, test results have been received from City Hall, the Senior Center, the Library, the Water Treatment Plant, Karger Center, the Police Station, Firehouse Youth Center, Fire Station #33, Fire Station #34, the Public Services Building, and Ravinia Fire Station #32. Protocols have been and will remain in place to ensure water delivered to homes, public facilities and business is safe. The City continuously monitors the safety of the water leaving the City’s Water Plant. Public health and safety are critical priorities.
There is currently no federal or state law requiring the testing of drinking water in municipal buildings, but testing is the best way for organizations to know if there are elevated levels of lead in the drinking water and to quickly eliminate any potential problems. To-date the City has taken samples from 170 fixtures and has 4 remaining fixtures to test. Lab results take approximately five weeks to complete. All results are posted on the City website at www.cityhpil.com/leadwatertesting.
Following is a list of Questions and Answers; other information can be found at http://www.cityhpil.com/leadwatertesting. Questions can be directed to the
Water Plant Superintendent Don Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847.433.4355.
Lead Testing Q&As
What facilities are being tested?
- City Hall
- Fire Station – Central Avenue
- Fire Station – Half Day Road
- Fire Station - Ravinia
- Police Department
- Public Services Building
- Senior Center
- Youth Services Facilities
- Highland Park Public Library
- Train Station – St. Johns Ave.
- Train Station – Ravinia
- Water Treatment Plant
- Karger Center
When will the testing begin?
Sample collection began Monday, July 24, 2017. The testing of all City facilities could take up to 4 weeks.
When will the results of the collaborative water testing be available to the public?
The test results take approximately five weeks to complete.
What are the collection procedures for drinking water testing?
The City’s Water Plant staff will collect the water samples and transport them to PDC Laboratories in Peoria, IL for processing. PDC uses an analytical method that can see test results at lower concentrations. The certified laboratory will submit the test results to the City.
What are some common problems found when testing?
In general, you may find a presence of lead in drinking water when:
- Lead pipes are used throughout the facility
- Sediment or scale in the plumbing and faucet screens contain lead
- Brass fittings, faucets, and valves were installed throughout the building less than five years ago (even though they may contain less than the “lead-free” requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act)
In general, you may find localized presence of lead if:
- Some brass fittings, faucets, and valves have been installed in the last five years (even though they may meet the SDWA “lead-free” requirement)
- Drinking water outlets are in line with brass flush valves, such as drinking water fountains near restroom supply piping
- Lead pipes are used in some locations
- Lead solder joints were installed in short sections of pipe before 1986 or were illegally installed after 1988 (i.e., after the lead-free requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act took effect)
- There are areas in the building’s plumbing with low flow or infrequent use
- Sediment in the plumbing and screens frequently contains lead
- Some water coolers or other outlets have components that are not lead-free, especially if the water is corrosive
What are the benefits of testing for lead?
- Protecting the health and well-being of residents and visitors
- Raising awareness of potential problems, causes and health effects of lead in drinking water
- Setting a high-standard for other communities to follow
- Peace of mind for the community
What will the organizations do if elevated levels of lead are found?
Solutions to lead problems typically need to be made on an interim (short-term) and on a permanent basis. Interim measures can be taken until a permanent solution has been put in place. In addition, there are routine measures that would be taken. The organization would work closely with maintenance staff and any plumbers making repairs.
Several routine control measures that could be taken include:
- Creating aerator (screen) cleaning maintenance schedule and cleaning debris from all accessible aerators frequently
- Using only cold water for food and beverage preparation
- Instructing the users (students and staff) to run the water before drinking
Short-term control measures include:
- “Flushing” the piping system in the building
- Providing bottled water
- Shutting off problem outlets
Organizations can take a number of steps to reduce or eliminate the sources of lead that originate in the facilities’ plumbing. After obtaining an evaluation of the water supply, if lead if present the organization will take steps to fix the situation.
What are the health effects of lead exposure?
Lead is a toxic metal that is harmful to human health. Young children are at particular risk for lead exposure. Children’s nervous systems are still undergoing development and thus are more susceptible to the effects of toxic agents. Lead is also harmful to the developing fetuses of pregnant women.
The degree of harm from lead exposure depends on a number of factors including the frequency, duration, and dose of the exposure(s) and individual susceptibility factors (e.g., age, previous exposure history, nutrition, and health).
How does lead get into drinking water?
Even though the drinking water supplied by the City of Highland Park is lead free, facilities may have elevated lead levels due to plumbing fixtures and water use patterns. Additional information can be found on City’s website at www.cityhpil.com/leadwatertesting.
How is lead in drinking water currently regulated?
Lead is regulated in public drinking water supplies under a federal law known as the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This Act was initially passed in 1974 and, in part, requires EPA to establish regulations for known or potential contaminants in drinking water for the purpose of protecting public health.
Can I have my property tested?
Redents can have the water in your home tested for lead. The City of Highland Park Water Treatment Plant laboratory is not certified for metals analysis. Please see the link on the City’s website of accredited labs for lead testing for a list of laboratories that can test residential water samples. Please follow the sampling procedure as noted in IEPA guidelines.
How can I reduce exposure to lead in the tap water?
To reduce exposure to lead in the tap water, always use cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula, as hot water is more likely to contain lead. Boiling water does not remove lead. If water has not been run for more than 6 hours, flush your water system. This can be done by running the tap for a minimum of 5 minutes, flushing the toilet, taking a shower, or doing laundry. You may consider purchasing and installing a filter that is certified to remove lead. And also considering hiring a Licensed Certified Plumber to evaluate the faucets, fittings, and pipes.