Macomb officials map out plan to remove lead pipes, comply with law

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 10:36 PM CST
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MACOMB (WGEM) - Illinois community leaders have a big task ahead of them as they work to meet a state deadline to find, and create, a plan to replace lead water pipes.

City leaders in Macomb said they’ve already replaced 700 lead lines over the past few years but don’t know how many they still need to replace.

Mitchell Garrison, and his crewmates, worked Wednesday afternoon to finish replacing their last potential lead service line before freezing temperatures stop them.

“The problem with lead is that it’s just bad, and there’s a lot of it in Macomb, more than I’ve seen any place else,” Garrison said.

Garrison said he has struggled to find materials to replace the pipes over the last year with a supply shortage of plastic and copper pipes.

“Used to be if you wanted something, you could call and get it,” Garrison said. “But ever since the pandemic happened, the factories shut down and the supplies were sold off elsewhere, and that’s why it’s been so hard to get.”

Public works director Alice Ohrtman said they were only able to complete 40 to 50 lead removal services in Macomb in 2021, which is about half of the 100 they intended to replace.

“Fortunately, the new law doesn’t require us to start replacing for three years, or more, so we’ve got time. The supply system has time to react. They know it’s coming, too, so it’s in their best interest to gear up because every town, every city in America has lead. Everyone is going to be doing this,” Ohrtman said.

Ohrtman said they are documenting whatever they can find in their tracking system. However, locating the pipes can be tricky, and costly, if the pipe isn’t where they think it is.

“You come across a lot of crazy things,” Ohrtman said. “You know, you’ll find it’s going straight to the house and veer off.”

Ohrtman said it will be a long process but they’re doing everything they can to find the pipes and meet deadline.

“We’ve been proactively removing lead services,” Ohrtman said. “We ask the plumbers, whenever they’re doing work in a home, if they see anything then please let us know so we can document it.”

Ohrtman said there have not been any known cases of lead leakage or poisoning in Macomb. However, if you do want to get your water tested, contact a water quality lab at 800-752-6651.

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