In response to the Illinois Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act (Act), effective January 1, 2022, communities across the state are grappling with how to address lead service line replacement and new regulatory requirements. This article highlights some of the key stakeholder groups that should be engaged early in the process to support lead line replacement planning and implementation efforts.
Property Owners – Compiling a lead service line inventory of the community water supply is one of the Act’s first requirements. This involves engaging property owners, both residential and commercial, to identify private property water service line material. Targeted outreach and education are critical and will typically involve surveying property owners and/or onsite visual inspections. Outreach materials should be simple and provide clear instructions on how property owners can identify service line material. Onsite verifications and replacements will also require property access, and when permission is denied, communities and utilities must have a process to document refusals and notify the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Overcoming misinformation and fear may be a major challenge, as property owners may worry about how this could impact property values and the cost to replace service lines in their homes if lead is detected. Communities should plan to follow-up consistently and continuously with property owners, especially in priority low-income or disadvantaged areas.
Local Partnerships – Community water supply agencies should partner with a range of organizations early in the planning process to advance education and replacement efforts. Organizations may include public health agencies, community advocacy groups, schools, park districts, libraries, faith-based groups, medical providers and more. Community groups and institutions can act as ambassadors or champions and help build trust and increase engagement, especially in high priority and at-risk areas. Community members who lack trust in governmental agencies may be more responsive to receiving or sharing information with community-based groups. Having an accurate survey with as many responses as possible requires a joint effort by a variety of local partners.
Internal Coordination – Successful program planning and implementation also involves significant internal coordination across all departments. Complying with the Act is not just a Public Works Department issue. For example, finance departments will likely be engaged to address funding, communication departments to inform and educate residents and businesses, community development departments to administer permits and more.
Contractors – The availability of skilled contractors that can complete replacements in a timely manner is also key. However, contractors may not be familiar with municipal procurement processes or the Act itself. Communities can start compiling resources for potential contractors and make them available online. A list of licensed contractors and any local permitting requirements can also be provided for homeowners interested in completing replacements on their own. IDPH has also issued a variance to the Illinois Plumbing Code under specific conditions to support lead service line replacements that contractors should be aware of.