Keeping you informed about our water quality progress remains a top priority. As we continue our rigorous monitoring, sampling and treatment efforts, we encourage you to check back here by the 10th of each month for the latest data updates.
June 2021 data update
Updated on 07/10/2021
Aqua Illinois continues to diligently investigate remaining elevated lead issues within a limited number of homes. While we have made progress, water samples processed and submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) indicate that we did not meet the regulatory threshold for the latest six-month monitoring period that ended in June 2021.
It is important to know that having a home in a lead advisory area does not automatically mean you have elevated lead levels in your water. Lead is not present in the source water or Aqua’s University Park infrastructure. The issue is isolated to a limited number of remaining homes that are still experiencing elevated lead levels in their water due to internal plumbing materials. While we continue to make remarkable progress with our treatment protocol, we are working with scientists and regulators to identify any opportunities to further refine the treatment and help the remaining homes recover.
State and federal drinking water regulations require that 90 percent of samples require that 90 percent of samples test at or below 15 micrograms per liter (ug/L) over a six-month period. This latest monitoring period shows that 87 percent of samples met that threshold, just below standard.
July 2021 marks the start of a new six-month monitoring period that will continue through December 2021, and we will continue to keep the community informed with water quality updates.
To view a table listing all compliance sample results from the January-June sampling events, please click here.
IEPA guidelines suggest that advisory area customers continue to flush cold tap water for two to three minutes and use an NSF-certified filter before consuming tap water.
Customers whose homes were previously lifted from the advisory were never impacted and can continue to use water normally.
Free filter resources and bottled water remain available to eligible customers.
Our commitment to our customers remains unwavering and we will continue working closely with the community, national experts and regulators to achieve a long-term resolution. Call 877.987.2782 at any time to request water sampling and in-home technical assistance, or if you have questions about internal lead plumbing in your home.
See below for more information about compliance sampling and our process.
More information about compliance sampling
Compliance sampling in University Park
IEPA regulations require that we work with at least 40 homes and businesses in the University Park service area to conduct compliance sampling. Sample locations must be submitted to the IEPA for approval before compliance sampling can begin.
To complete compliance sampling, participating customers help us collect samples after their water has been unused for six or more hours. We then send the samples to an independent lab for testing.
What we believe happened and how we are treating the water
On June 14, 2019, we immediately issued an advisory requesting that customers temporarily not consume unfiltered water in the service area to be as protective as possible after receiving compliance samples that showed elevated lead levels in 14 homes on June 13, 2019. Right away, we began investigating and gathering information to restore the water quality for our customers.
It is important to note that no state or federal regulation required us to take this unprecedented advisory action. We voluntarily took this precautionary step to protect the public until we learned more about the extent, cause and level of the issue AND until we could formalize our voluntary system to provide alternative sources of water. Our sweeping actions have gone beyond those of any supplier in the nation and were neither required by law nor ordered by any State or federal government agency. We took these steps because we care about the community.
Throughout our response, we have offered resources and guidance for customers on how to consume their tap water and educational resources and tips for home water use.
Our information shows that there was never lead in the source water or our University Park infrastructure. To date, we have identified that the likely cause of elevated lead levels in a limited number of homes was due to water chemistry interacting with lead solder and other lead sources in the internal plumbing of homes built prior to 1990. Homes built after 1990 are not expected to have lead solder because the use of lead solder was banned by law in the mid-1980s.
Within 30 days of discovering the exceedance, in coordination with the IEPA, we removed several areas and hundreds of homes from the advisory based on property age and water sample results.
In June 2019, we began working with national water chemistry experts and regulators to investigate and implement a new treatment plan that would work to prevent lead inside customers’ plumbing from interacting with fresh water flowing into their homes. It is important to note that these treatments are not harmful to humans or pets.
Our customers’ health and safety remain at the heart of everything we do and will continue doing all we can to be a good community partner while we build on progress toward the long-term resolution.
A message from the IEPA
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates there is no safe blood lead level in children. Lead exposures come from a combination of environmental sources, which may include lead in water. U.S. EPA estimates that water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead, and infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40-60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water. The source of lead in water is most often from a building’s plumbing system.
The IEPA and Illinois Department of Public Health support point-of-use (POU) filters as a short-term strategy for reducing lead in drinking water. (Please note: Aqua Illinois is providing free faucet filters and pitcher filters to customers in University Park). A POU system filters water at the point where water is being used and is installed at the water connection, typically under the sink in the kitchen or bathroom. Water pitchers with POU filters may also be used. POU filters are commercially available and can be effective at removing most lead. There are several POU cartridge filter units on the market. They can vary in price and effectiveness. Filters should routinely be replaced or maintained in accordance with manufacturers guidelines and recommendations to remain effective.
To select a lead-reducing POU filter, check with the manufacturer or a third-party website (such as www.nsf.org) to verify the product was tested and certified for lead removal (NSF/ANSI Standard 53). For additional protection for particulate lead, look for a POU filter that is also certified against NSF/ANSI Standard 42 (for class I particulate reduction, 0.5 micrometers to less than 1 micrometers). To be effective, the POU filters should be installed at locations used for drinking water or for food preparation according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes kitchen water faucets and refrigerators with water dispensers and ice makers or in water pitchers.
POU filters should be considered an interim measure until [effective treatment is restored, or] the sources of lead have been removed and replaced with lead free plumbing materials. After replacement of lead plumbing materials or disturbance of a plumbing system, the plumbing system should be flushed for 30 minutes with aerators and screens removed from all faucets. Because you cannot see, smell, or taste lead in water, testing the water is the only way to determine if lead is present in drinking water.
To access additional information about lead in drinking water and a consumer tool for identifying POU filters certified to reduce lead, please visit U.S. EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water and https://www.epa.gov/water-research/consumer-tool-identifying-pou-drinking-water-filters-certified-reduce-lead.
Lead in homes can also come from sources other than water. To access more information about other sources of lead, please visit IDPH’s website at: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/illinoislead.
Consider contacting your doctor to have your children tested if you are concerned about lead exposure.
The Lead and Copper Rule and compliance sampling requirements
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its Lead and Copper Rule, requires water utilities to work with their customers to collect regularly scheduled stagnation samples, or compliance samples. These samples must be taken after water has remained in customers’ pipes unused for six or more hours, therein providing high-case scenario data for lead exposure.
Under the rule, utilities must choose sample locations that represent properties with the highest inventory of lead. For example, so-called “Tier 1” locations include those with lead service lines (there are no lead service lines in University Park) or lead solder on copper pipes within homes constructed after 1982.