Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We remain committed to keeping you informed. We've compiled some commonly asked questions to address most inquiries. If you can't find the answer to your question below, please feel free to give us a call at 877.987.2782.
Are we any closer to a resolution?
Yes. State and federal drinking water regulations require that 90 percent of regularly sampled homes have water lead levels of 15 micrograms per liter (ug/L) or less as measured over six-month monitoring periods. In January 2021, the IEPA confirmed that water quality in University Park was restored to below the regulatory lead action level for the July to December 2020 period.
While our results indicate major progress over previous monitoring periods, water samples processed and submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency indicate that we did not meet the regulatory threshold for the latest six-month monitoring period that ended in June 2021. Importantly, the data show that 87 percent of samples met the threshold, just below the 90-percent standard. The 87-percent results still represent major overall improvement and reflect the treatment’s effectiveness in helping homes recover.
It is important to note that having a home in the advisory area does not automatically mean there are elevated lead levels in your water. No lead is present in the source water or Aqua’s University Park infrastructure. Our sampling pool indicates that many homes are not impacted, which gives us confidence both that this issue is isolated to a limited number of homes with lead in internal plumbing materials, and that our treatment efforts are working. If your home was previously lifted from the advisory, your home was never impacted, and you can continue to use your water normally.
If you have any question about whether your home is impacted, Aqua has and continues to offer free water sampling and in-home consultation. We encourage you to call us at 877.987.2782 to take advantage of this service.
Our commitment to our customers remains unwavering. While we continue to make remarkable progress with our treatment protocol, we are also working with scientists and regulators to identify any opportunities to further refine the treatment and help the remaining homes recover.
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.
Should I continue to flush and filter before consuming tap water?
Regulators recommend that customers under the advisory flush and filter tap water before consumption by following these steps:
- First, run cold tap water for two to three minutes when water has sat stagnant in internal plumbing, and
- Filter cold tap water through faucet or pitcher filters that are certified to remove lead, like those Aqua Illinois continues to offer.
After filtering cold tap water, you can heat it up before consumption if you prefer (for example, on the stove or in the microwave).
We remain committed to rebuilding trust in the community, and it is important to emphasize that only a limited number of homes are impacted by elevated levels of lead in the water. If you are concerned about internal lead plumbing in your home, you can request free water sampling and in-home technical assistance by calling our customer service team at 877.987.2782.
Is Aqua Illinois still providing resources to customers?
Yes. Customers are encouraged to request free water sampling and in-home technical assistance by calling 877.987.2782. We continue to offer free resources – including bottled water, NSF-certified faucet and pitcher filters and filter replacements – at this time to eligible University Park customers through our local distribution center.
How is Aqua Illinois working with state and federal regulators?
As a water provider, we are highly regulated. We have been and will continue to be in constant communication with both state and federal agencies every step of the way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the IEPA and the Illinois Commerce Commission have laws and regulations in place to regulate drinking water.
What caused elevated lead levels?
It is important to note that neither Aqua Illinois’ University Park infrastructure nor the Kankakee River source water contain lead, but there is lead within some homes’ internal plumbing and faucet fixtures.
In 2016, customers expressed concerns about water hardness and discoloration caused by iron in the water. Aqua Illinois began addressing these concerns by investing $22 million to improve water quality and transition University Park from well water to softened and filtered water from the Kankakee River.
To date, we have identified that the likely cause of elevated lead levels in a limited number of homes is 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.
Experts continue to affirm that this situation could not have been predicted.
What if my home was lifted from the advisory?
If your home was lifted from the advisory, your home was never impacted, and you can continue to use your water normally.
Through our water sampling protocol, we know that hundreds of homes – both inside and outside of the advisory area – were never impacted by elevated lead levels in their water. That is because the source of the lead is not the source water or the University Park infrastructure. Instead, our investigation indicates that 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.
How did Aqua Illinois respond?
From the beginning, we have taken unprecedented and immediate action to prioritize our customers’ well-being. After discovering a lead action level exceedance in University Park in June 2019 following routine sampling, we immediately issued a precautionary advisory for the entire service area and began distributing resources – including bottled water, faucet and pitcher filter devices and filter replacements – along with frequent communications to the community. These sweeping actions have gone beyond 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.
Within hours, we began working with national water chemistry experts and regulators to investigate and implement a new treatment plan that would help rebuild the protective coating inside customers’ home plumbing. Treatments work to prevent lead inside customers’ plumbing from coming into contact with fresh water flowing into their homes. As part of our treatment efforts, we more than doubled our sampling pool, quadrupled the number of monthly samples, and completed in-home visits to clean and analyze faucet and plumbing fixtures — all efforts that go well beyond regulatory requirements. We also partnered with an independent, minority-owned firm to test customer-requested samples.
We have made major progress on improving the water quality and narrowing the number of homes and customers who are impacted. We continue to monitor water quality, partner with customers on water sampling and in-home assistance, and gauge our treatment’s effectiveness based on Illinois regulations and routine water sampling data. 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 building on progress toward the long-term resolution. Our customers’ ongoing cooperation is vital to our success in the community.
Why are only certain homes impacted?
Aqua Illinois has been working 24/7 to ensure it is providing the best water possible to University Park customers. Our data indicate that 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, and not University Park infrastructure or source water. Many factors like water use, plumbing configuration and excess lead solder, to name a few, can impact how quickly and effectively the treatment can work in those homes.
We remain committed to working 1:1 with customers to assess individual home water quality and provide customized support.
Through rigorous monitoring and adjustments to our treatment protocols, overall water quality in the community has improved significantly and we have continually narrowed the number of homes and customers who are impacted. While we continue to make remarkable progress with our treatment protocol, we are fully committed to helping remaining impacted homes recover. We are working with these customers on an individual basis to collect water samples, monitor the treatment progress and assess individual home needs. In addition, the nation’s best experts are working diligently, in lockstep with regulators, to identify any opportunities to further refine the treatment.
Will Aqua Illinois continue to conduct regular water sampling?
As we continue building on our progress, we will continue to perform required sampling consistent with the regulations and our permits. Customers can also continue to request free water sampling and in-home assistance by calling our customer service team at 877.987.2782.
Do all water filters remove lead?
Through our comprehensive filter program, we have offered water filter pitchers, faucet filters and filter replacements that are certified by the NSF, an accredited third-party certification body that evaluates point-of-use drinking water filters for lead reduction, to remove lead in water and as recommended by the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These certified filters make it safe to consume the filtered water when the filters are used properly. Please follow all manufacturers’ instructions to ensure proper use.
According to federal regulators, only certain water filters reduce lead. You can view the EPA’s Consumer Tool for Identifying Point-of-Use Drinking Water Filters Certified to Reduce Lead here: https://www.epa.gov/water-research/consumer-tool-identifying-pou-drinking-water-filters-certified-reduce-lead.
Where can I access Aqua Illinois’ water sampling results?
We are committed to full transparency with our customers, which is why we have been sharing regular reports on the “Data Updates” page of WaterFactsIL.com so the community can track our progress with us.
In addition, sample results are available to the public on the IEPA’s website. Below are instructions on how to find them. If you have any difficulties accessing this information, please call 877.987.2782 and we will be happy to assist.
Instructions for accessing water sample results on the IEPA website
Go to the agency’s homepage at https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/Pages/default.aspx and follow these steps:
Click on Drinking Water Watch
Enter the Water System No. (IL1975030)
Click on the ID hyperlink.
Click on Chem/Rad Samples/Results by Analyte
Click on the Analyte code for lead 1030
To see the 90th percentile value for lead, repeat steps 1-3, then click on Lead and Copper Summary Results. (Note: The DS2 code means this is University Park data.)
What are Aqua Illinois’ next steps in the community?
Our priority has been and continues to be restoration of the water quality in University Park. Every step of the way, our response has been informed by data and science, and we have continually adapted our treatment approach to narrow in on the remaining impacted homes. Through constant monitoring and proactive treatment efforts, we have significantly reduced the number of homes and customers that are impacted and improved the water quality overall.
The source of the lead is not the source water or the University Park infrastructure, and this remains a home-by-home issue. Today, 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.
July 2021 marked the start of a new six-month monitoring period that continues through December 2021. While we continue to provide support and resources – including free filter resources, bottled water and in-home technical assistance and water sampling – we are working diligently with regulators and national experts to address issues within certain homes and optimize the effectiveness of our treatment. As always, Aqua Illinois remains committed to full transparency and cooperation and will continue providing updates and guidance.
Will bills continue to be capped or waived?
As part of our care and commitment to the community, for more than two years, we have voluntarily waived entire water bills and waived or capped sewer bills – even though drinking and cooking make up only a small fraction of home water usage. We also provided free filters for drinking and cooking through our comprehensive filter program, and customers could always use unfiltered water for non-consumption purposes. These actions go beyond those of any supplier in the nation because, as a company, we decided these billing adjustments were an important part of our response. Today, sewer bills remain capped, and we continue to evaluate water billing on a monthly basis.
What is in-home technical assistance?
Throughout this event, we have continually offered free in-home water assessments and water sampling to any University Park customer upon request. Designed to help you understand the water in your home, getting started is simple. Call 877.987.2782 to:
- Schedule technical assistance. There has never been any lead in the source water or University Park infrastructure, but there is lead inside some customers’ home plumbing. An Aqua Illinois team member will assist you in taking steps to protect your household from lead, including cleaning your faucet aerator and using your filter.
- Collect a water sample. You will receive step-by-step instructions so that your water can be tested by an independent, certified lab.
- Receive 1:1 support. Once you receive results on your home’s plumbing and water quality, an Aqua Illinois team member will discuss what they mean with you, share water-use tips, and work with you to address your unique needs.
Why is in-home technical assistance so important?
Customers who have worked with us on water sampling and in-home technical assistance have helped inform the science and our treatment protocol, contributing to significant overall water quality improvements in the community. We thank these customers for their cooperation and contributions to our progress.
Lead is not present in the source water or University Park infrastructure, and our data indicate that 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. This remains a home-by-home issue, which is why we remain committed to working 1:1 with customers to assess individual home water quality and provide customized support.
We encourage all customers in the advisory area who have questions about lead plumbing in their homes to call us today at 877.987.2782 to schedule free in-home assistance.
Was everyone in the area impacted?
Through our water sampling protocol, we know that hundreds of homes – both inside and outside of the advisory area – were never impacted by elevated lead levels in their water. That is because the source of the lead is not the source water or the University Park infrastructure. Instead, our investigation indicates that the source of the lead is within individual home plumbing in a limited number of impacted homes.
Water treatments work to build a protective coating that prevents lead inside impacted homes’ internal plumbing from coming into contact with the fresh water flowing into those homes. If you are concerned about internal lead plumbing in your home and want to know if your home is impacted, you can request free water sampling and in-home assistance by calling our customer service team at 877.987.2782.