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Lead Information

River Forest Water

The Village of River Forest’s supply of potable water comes from Lake Michigan. The water is piped to a treatment plant within the City of Chicago where it undergoes treatment. Once treated, the water is piped to River Forest, among many other towns. The water is supplied to the Village’s Pumping Station where additional chlorine is added before it enters the distribution system.

The Village’s public water supply network consists of a network of water mains generally constructed with cast iron or ductile iron piping and they are located underground, typically within the roadway but occasionally under the parkway or sidewalk. Each residence or building then has an additional pipe called a water service that connects to a water main and conveys water into the building.

Each year the Village performs testing of the water supply to ensure that it continually meets or exceeds standards set by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Results of these tests are posted on the Village website and can be reviewed here.

Lead & Water

Lead piping was commonly used for water service construction throughout the United States up until the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended in 1986. Among the amendments made was a “lead ban” which prohibited the use of pipe, solder or flux in public water supply systems that are not “lead free”. This effectively banned the use of lead piping as an acceptable water service material. In 1991, the Lead and Copper Rule was also adopted which further regulated how public water supplies were to be treated, in part to help further minimize adverse impacts related to lead piping. In December 2020, additional revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule were proposed as the first major update to the rule in almost 30 years. This goal of this amendment is to “further protect children and families from exposure to lead in drinking water.”

In older buildings with lead water services or those that include lead solder or fixtures, the lead can leach into the water and become a source of exposure to those consuming it. The City of Chicago treats the water to create a barrier between any lead piping/fixture and the water in the system, however, circumstances such as pipe corrosion or cutting of a lead pipe (in the instance of a repair) can break this barrier and result in increased lead levels. The only way to ensure that there is no opportunity for lead to leach into the water system is to completely replace any piping, fittings, fixtures or solder that contain lead. This video created by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and this brochure created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide great overviews of how lead can enter the water supply as well some steps that can be taken to help minimize risk of exposure.

How to Reduce Lead Exposure Potential

  • Exposure to lead in drinking water can be reduced by filtering all water to be used for drinking or cooking. A list of filters certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) can be found here.
  • At minimum, tap water to be used for drinking or cooking should be flushed from the tap, especially if it has been sitting stagnant for more than 6 hours. The recommended length of time to flush the tap depends on multiple factors including length of the service line, amount of lead fittings/solder, whether or not the service line is lead, etc.
  • Only use cold tap water for drinking or cooking as warm or hot tap water can contain higher levels of lead. Boiling water does not reduce the amount of lead in water.
  • Clean all aerators on faucets as mineral buildup can increase exposure of lead to the water supply at this location.
  • Test your water to see if there is any lead present. The following list includes a few local testing laboratories as well as the full IEPA list of accredited laboratories:
    1. Suburban Laboratories – 800-783-5227
    2. First Environmental Laboratories, Inc. – 630-778-1200
    3. Culligan – 877-538-9119
    4. Full IEPA List of Accredited Laboratories

What is the Village doing to limit lead in the water distribution system?

The infrastructure that the Village uses to distribute potable water throughout the Village does not contain any lead piping or fittings. The most abundant source of lead starts with water services which connect the Village’s water main to each home or building. While the water is treated to create a “barrier” between the water and any lead piping, any disturbance to the pipe (repair, replacement, etc.) can cause this barrier to be broken and will increase the risk of lead exposure.

When the Village performs a water main replacement project, all water services are replaced with copper piping up to the buffalo box. The buffalo box is a valve on a water service, located between the building and the water main which can typically be found in the parkway, driveway apron or sometimes even within the sidewalk. An image of the visible portion of the buffalo box can be seen to the right. This valve allows the Village to turn off water service to a building if work is being performed or due to non-payment. It is recommended that property owners replace any lead piping between the buffalo box and the water meter inside the building, however, this is not mandatory. Village Staff is also made available to those properties impacted by the project for a site inspection to better determine whether or not a lead service is present. 

The Village also occasionally identifies leaking water services through an annual Leak Detection Survey. If a leak is discovered on the Village’s portion of the water service, it is replaced between the water main and the buffalo box with copper piping. Again, it is recommended that property owner replace any lead piping between the buffalo box and the water meter inside the building, however, this is not mandatory. If a leak is discovered on the property owner’s portion of a lead water service, it is required that the leak be immediately repaired and it is further recommended that the piping be replaced with copper between the building and the buffalo box.

Lead Service Line Replacement Program

In May, 2021, the Village Board approved a Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) Program which provides partial funding for the removal and replacement of lead water services throughout the Village. This Program only applies to those properties that are currently served by a lead water service which is to be replaced voluntarily, not those requiring replacement to be in compliance with the Village ordinance. Program details can be found here

Additional Resources