City develops loan program to replace lead pipes


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz speaks at a city meeting. Bobkiewicz said a proposal to introduce a no-interest loan program for pipe replacement was still in the works.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

City staff are working on a proposal to set up a loan program for homeowners to replace lead water pipes.

The program — which would have to be approved by City Council — would allow homeowners to borrow up to $4,800 at no interest from the city to replace lead pipes, Public Works director Dave Stoneback said. Homeowners would be eligible for the program if the city is replacing water mains on their street, Stoneback said. He also said the city currently puts a chemical in the water to protect it from the lead pipes. However, as lead water mains are replaced, tests have shown lead levels can rise if the pipes connecting homes to the main are not replaced as well.

“The lead levels can significantly rise,” Stoneback said. “This will give the homeowners an option of not having the situation occur.”

Stoneback said the average cost of replacing lead water pipes with copper is about $8,000 for the homeowner, depending on how far back the house sits from the street and where the water meter is located within. The loan would likely provide homeowners with up to $4,800 of the funding, which would be paid back over a four-year period.

The charges for the program would be $200 every two months, and appear on the resident’s water bill, Stoneback said.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that while final details were still being worked out, funding for the program would likely come from the city’s water fund. The pipe replacement would likely be paid for with payments from past loans, he said.

This comes as the city pursues a lawsuit against ComEd and Nicor — descendants of a company that owned the plant — over contaminants found in and around water mains in southwest Evanston that can be traced back to a manufacturing plant owned by the companies’ predecessors.

Stoneback discussed the program at a city meeting last week concerning water quality concerns in southwest Evanston near James Park, but said the program was largely unrelated to that meeting. Stoneback said the proposed program is unrelated to that issue.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) said she supports the proposed program. The city has a “responsibility” to ensure residents feel safe drinking their water, Fiske said.

“I just feel that it is really critically important for us to be able to ensure that whatever water is coming into anybody’s house that they (know) it’s absolutely safe that it is healthy for them,” she said.

Fiske said she replaced lead water pipes in both her homes in Evanston for copper pipes as a “proactive” step to ensure her family’s water was safe.

“If people want to replace them we should be able to support them,” she said. “It’s not inexpensive, and for most homeowners it’s not an expense they plan for, so it’s entirely appropriate that the city help out with that.”

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