Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Getting the lead out in Macomb

 WIU students dressed in yellow shirts with the city logo are helping Macomb survey homes for lead water
City of Macomb
courtesy photo
WIU students dressed in yellow shirts with the city logo are helping Macomb survey homes for lead water pipes.

Macomb is beginning the process of removing the remaining lead water lines in the community, even though the city’s water is not leaching lead out of the pipes.

“It’s not an issue here in Macomb. Regardless, the (federal) mandate is to get rid of all lead services whether it’s a problem or not,” said Public Works Director Alice Ohrtmann.

The city is collaborating on the project with Western Illinois University’s GIS Center. They’re sending teams of two WIU students door-to-door throughout the community.

“They’re asking permission to go into people’s basements. They will check the service where it comes into the house and make a determination on the type of material,” said Ohrtmann.

However, she said some homeowners are not letting the students into their houses because they question whether they’re actually with the city.

Ohrtmann said the students involved with the project are wearing bright yellow shirts with the city logo on it. They also have their student IDs, and they have a letter from Ohrtmann that explains what they’re doing.

She said anyone who’s uncomfortable allowing someone into their home can go to the city’s website and complete the survey online.

They can also double check with Ohrtmann by calling her at 309-833-2821.

“I would encourage everyone to let these kids into the house. It only takes a few minutes. They’re in and out. They’re not intrusive at all,” said Ohrtmann.

“The information is really important to the city because it allows us to get funding required to get this done and gives us a lot of good information.”

She said financing and grant funding are available to the city, and it should be able to do a bulk of the work at no expense to homeowners.

The goal is to complete the door-to-door surveys by the end of summer.

The survey must be submitted to the Illinois EPA by April of next year.

Ohrtmann said the city will then have three years to put together a comprehensive plan on how it intends to remove all lead pipes from its system.

She said after that, Macomb will have roughly 15 more years to enact the plan.

Ohrtmann said they are mainly looking at houses built before 1972, which is when the city passed an ordinance to ban the installation of lead service lines.

The student crews are starting in the northwest quadrant and working their way through town.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.