This Friday, the city of Galesburg will officially replace the final lead water service line in Galesburg.

This marks a milestone achievement that has been in the works since 2017, when the city began the first phase of lead service line replacements, according to a Tuesday Galesburg release. Since that time, there have been a total of six phases of lead service line replacement projects, with the end goal of replacing all of the lead lines in the city. 

A ceremony to recognize this achievement will be held at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, at 1379 N. Kellogg Street, which is the location of the final lead service line replacement and will mark the completion of the project.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) provided approximately $2 million in forgivable loans for each of the six phases of the project. This $12-million investment allowed for the replacement of approximately 3,000 lead service lines, the city said.

The contractor for all six phases of the project was J.C. Dillon Inc. from Peoria. Bruner, Cooper, and Zuck, Inc. of Galesburg provided bidding and construction inspection services for all phases of the project. 

“We are very happy to see this project completed, and are grateful to the IEPA for the funding, which made this possible, as well as J.C. Dillon and Bruner, Cooper, and Zuck for their quality work on this extensive project,” said Galesburg public works director Michael Doi. “This is a significant achievement for Galesburg, which increases the health and well-being of our citizens.”

Lead is toxic, especially in young children and there is no safe blood lead level that has been identified in children, the city release said. When lead is breathed in or swallowed, it can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems.

The good news is lead poisoning is preventable and the key is preventing children from coming into contact with lead. Removal of lead water service lines eradicates one potential source of lead.

Another common source of exposure is from deteriorated lead-based paint, which was used inside and outside many homes built before 1978. Children can be exposed by swallowing or breathing in lead dust created by old paint that has cracked and chipped, eating paint chips, and chewing on surfaces coated with lead dust and/or lead-based paint, such as windowsills.

Parents can take preventative steps such as a simple blood test to detect lead in children, as well as have their home tested for lead-based paint if the structure was built before 1978.

Galesburg is not the only Illinois community facing the challenge of replacing lead water service lines. While Galesburg will have officially replaced all lead water service lines in the community at the end of this week, according to the IEPA Summary of Public Water Supply Service Lines, there are an estimated 667,275 reported lead water service lines in Illinois.

Water service lines are typically owned and maintained by each resident, but thanks to the grant funding through the IEPA, all Galesburg residents were able to have their lead services lines replaced at no cost to the resident.

“This is a tremendous project for Galesburg,” said interim city manager John Schlaf. “Our appreciation is extended to retired Public Works Director, Wayne Carl, who was instrumental in leading this project, resulting in a substantial and lasting improvement in the health and well-being of 3,000 households in our community.”