What does it mean that water in University Park is restored?

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 addition to meeting the sampling requirements under the regulations, we also performed additional sampling as required by the State and to validate our results. Data show that the 90th percentile met the benchmark for the July to December period.

We have been striving towards this significant water quality milestone since day one, and it reaffirms that the treatment is working. We thank our customers for helping get here.

Should I continue to flush and filter before consuming tap water?

It is always a best practice in any water system to run tap water for a few minutes if it has not been used for several hours. This ensures that you are getting the freshest water from the main.

We remain committed to rebuilding trust in the community. If you are concerned about internal lead plumbing in your home, you can request free water sampling by calling our customer service team at 877.987.2782. At your discretion, you can continue to flush and filter tap water before consumption by following these steps:

  1. First, run cold tap water for two to three minutes when water has sat stagnant in internal plumbing, and
  2. 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).

Is Aqua Illinois still providing resources to customers?

We continue to offer 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. Additionally, customers may request free water sampling by calling 877.987.2782.

How will Aqua Illinois maintain the water quality moving forward?

We will continue to diligently monitor and safeguard the water quality, which will include routine water sampling consistent with Illinois regulations. As we continue using the water treatment that has restored water quality, we look forward to ongoing collaboration with nationally renowned water chemistry experts and regulators.

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.

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.

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 rebuild the protective coating inside customers’ home plumbing. That protective coating prevents 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.

Sampling data validate that these efforts have been effective, and the community’s water quality is restored.

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. The data indicate that the treatment is working to rebuild 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, you can request free water sampling by calling our customer service team at 877.987.2782.

How is Aqua Illinois working with state and federal regulators?

As a water provider, we are highly regulated and 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 Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Commerce Commission have laws and regulations in place to regulate drinking water.

Will Aqua Illinois continue to conduct regular water sampling?

As we worked to restore the water quality, we far exceeded regulatory water sampling requirements by quadrupling our sampling and collecting samples on a monthly basis. From June 2019 to December 2020, we collected more than 5,000 water samples to monitor the treatment’s progress and ensure we were restoring the water quality as quickly as possible. We thank our water sampling customers for working alongside us to collect all these samples and help us achieve this milestone for the community. Moving forward, we will continue to perform required sampling consistent with the regulations and our permits.

Do all water filters remove lead?

According to federal regulators, only certain water filters reduce 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.

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:

  1. Click on Drinking Water Watch
  2. Enter the Water System No. (IL1975030)
  3. Click on the ID hyperlink.
  4. Click on Chem/Rad Samples/Results by Analyte
  5. 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.)