Is my water safe to drink?

lead service2

We do a lot of ongoing training with our inspectors to keep them well informed. During a recent training session, we were discussing lead in water and our role in helping clients determine whether they have a problem if their home has a lead water service line. First and foremost, ALL water piping that is lead is a concern and needs follow up. Essentially, it is up to others to determine whether it is a large problem or a minor inconvenience.

“EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual water quality report called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for their customers by July 1 of each year. Contact your water utility if you’d like to receive a copy of their latest report. If your water comes from a household well or other private water supply, check with your health department, or with any nearby water utilities that use ground water, for information on contaminants of concern in your area.”

Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water | US EPA

Researching lead in water in Chicago

To find out a little bit more about the issue in the City of Chicago, I researched some information provided by the City of Chicago Department of Water Management and the Chicago Department of Public Health. The information below pertains ONLY to Chicago, NOT the suburbs.

Basic facts about replacing lead water service in Chicago

When researching this topic, I found that:

  • Chicago’s lead program is called “Lead-Safe Chicago” and has a website at Home | Lead-Safe Chicago ( They handle both lead in paint and lead in water concerns. For the purposes of this memo, we will concentrate on only water.
  • Lead water mains were used to provide water to homes in Chicago until 1986
  • Chicago’s legacy lead service lines are found in nearly 400,000 primarily single-family and two-flat residents. 
  • Homeowners in Chicago can call 311 to order a free lead in water test kit.
  • Replacing a service line requires digging down to the water main in the street and installing a new copper service line from the main all the way into the house. It does require excavating a trench to reach the line which usually runs from the house under the lawn and the parkway out to the street. When the trench is open, the old lead line will be removed, and a new copper service line will be installed along with a water meter to help save money on water bills.
  • If a residential homeowner wants to hire a contractor and remove the existing lead service line, the City of Chicago is launching a program to waive the permit fees for the project. This could amount to a savings of up to $3,100. Additionally, the city will attach the new service line to the water main and provide a free water meter for the contractor to install if there isn’t already one in place. To qualify, the request for the fee waiver must be a standalone and not made in conjunction with a home renovation or expansion.

    *Commercial and mixed use residential/commercial locations are not eligible at this time.
  • From the website, Under this program, you may be eligible for a free lead service line replacement all the way from the water main into your home plus installation of a free water meter to save money on your water bills if:
    • Have a child under the age of 18 living in the home OR have elevated lead levels in your water as determined by free testing done by the Department of Water Management.
    • Live in a home you own.
    • Have a household income below 80% of the area median income ($74,550 for a family of 4).

People wonder what the water service looks like below their home. Here is a diagram from the Chicago website that shows a typical layout of how the water service enters a residence.

typical water service illustration
Water service in Chicago

As usual, we do not comment about environmental concerns unless we are specifically performing testing. However, if we are suspicious of an issue, we will recommend further follow up. Below are some links to other informational websites.

Resources | Lead-Safe Chicago (

Would you purchase a home with lead water piping?

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