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Getting Ready to Replace Lead Water Lines

T.J. Carson
Galesburg failed water quality tests in the fall of 2015, but showed improvement in the spring of 2016.

Galesburg aldermen approved a contract with J.C. Dillon of Peoria for $1.7 million to do the first phase of a lead water service line replacement program. The work is scheduled to begin next month.

The funding comes from a $4 million federal forgivable loan. The city will bid out the work for Phase 2 in August.

410 water service lines could be replaced in the first phase, and the city expects the loan money to cover the cost of replacing 930 lines in all.  That will still leave plenty of work to do -- the city estimates it has about 3,000 active lead water service lines.  Public Works Director Wayne Carl said the city is looking for other funding options and loans to pay for replacing the rest of the lines.

The city is replacing the privately-owned lead water service lines at no cost to residents. The first priority is low-income neighborhoods and homes with children under age six, houses where children tested for higher-than-safe lead levels in their blood, and homes where tests showed lead levels were higher than what’s considered safe.

The EPA has said people who have higher levels of lead in their blood are at greater risk of developing behavioral and learning problems.

The city maintains that the source of lead is in the privately-owned water service lines and not its water supply or city-owned service lines.

J.C. Dillon was one of two companies that submitted bids for the project. Carl said the bids originally came in around $300,000 higher than expected. He said that was due to the unknown aspects of the project.

"They hadn't done a contract like this, and so they're having to bid a little bit higher to cover themselves and that kind of thing. And so it's understandable," Carl said. "But fortunately we were able to work with them and change some specs so it kind of minimized some of the risks they had to take."

Carl said some of the unknowns included the cost of removing or replacing trees and brick sidewalks. He said the city was able to eliminate those requirements from the contract by promising to do the work itself if needed.

Phase 1 is expected to take seven months to complete.