WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Galesburg Tap Water Showing Less Lead

May 4, 2016

A series of water quality tests in Galesburg last fall revealed that some residents are being exposed to high amounts of lead.  Now a new round of testing at the same 30 homes showed some improvement. 

In the testing last fall, six homes exceeded federal standards for what is deemed safe for lead levels in tap water. One of the six homes had two samples that exceeded lead levels.  

Samples collected last month from Galesburg and the Illinois EPA showed a different story, with only two of 30 homes showing heightened lead levels.

City Manager Todd Thompson said the city added more phosphate to the water supply in January.  The phosphate coats water pipes to reduce deterioration.

“We think the improved results are a direct result of that. We’re going to do further corrosion control study, which can help verify that,” Thompson said.

Thompson said construction might be another factor in last fall's results.  He said construction can disturb water systems and bring more lead and other particles into tap water.  Projects being done around the homes last fall are now complete.  

The city is in the process of collecting samples for the next round of testing this month. An additional 30 homes will be tested, to complete the 60 required after exceeding federal standards last fall.

Thompson said the city is not letting its guard down even after encouraging test results.

“The council is going to continue to discuss options related to line replacement,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the city could seek federal grants to help replace lead water service lines. The city estimates there are 4,700 lead service lines in use.  Those lines connect homes to the city's water system.  

The city has said the pipes it uses to distribute  water throughout town do not contain lead.