Since the water crisis in Flint, Mich. was brought to national attention, communities across the United States have been undergoing their own intensive water inspections. The villages of Oak Park and River Forest are no different. After inspection and testing, OPRF officials said they’ve eliminated lead pipes form the water mains they control. However, according to officials, while the main water lines have been upgraded, Oak Park private property lines may still contain lead.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Oak Park spokesman David Powers said the village began eliminating its lead piping years ago as new water mains were installed as part of ongoing capital improvement projects. Oak Park also does not allow lead piping under current building codes.
“Water mains (today) are cast-iron and supply lines from mains to the shut-off valves are copper,” Powers told the Tribune.
Powers also told the Tribune that, “the village regularly tests its water supply at Village Hall and at the homes of residents who participate in an in-home testing program”. Powers referred to 2014 results that showed no harmful amounts of lead were discovered.
Oak Park and River Forest replace remaining lead service lines with new copper piping whenever possible. The village tests its public water monthly and will offer tips to residents when work is completed on underground water main projects.
According to a Feb. 8 Chicago Tribune report, roughly 80 percent of properties in Chicago are connected up to service lines made of lead. The study also found that the city’s testing protocols, based on federal rules, are likely to miss high concentrations of lead in drinking water.
According to the Tribune, “much older cities, including Chicago, add corrosion-fighting chemicals to the water supply that form a protective coating inside pipes”.
However, this treatment was stopped in Flint due to a sad attempt to cut costs. Powers said the decisions made in that case are unlikely to occur in Oak Park.
Since 1912, Oak Park has been receiving water from Lake Michigan via the city of Chicago. Data from the 2014 test cited by Powers shows the village pumps an average of 54 million gallons of water per day to more than 50,000 residents, according to the Tribune.
A small amount of chlorine is added to Oak Park’s pretreated water via pipelines from Chicago’s Jardine Water Purification Plant before it’s pumped into the village’s system of 105 miles of water mains, according to village reports
Those in Oak park concerned about lead in their water may choose to have their water tested. To help those who have been affected by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Dominican University in River Forest will be collecting bottled water donations and money donations for the people of Flint until Friday, Feb. 26. For more information on safe drinking water available, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.