Contractors to start replacing Galesburg's lead water lines

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GALESBURG, Ill. (KWQC) - Contractors in Galesburg will soon start replacing lead water lines across the city. The City Council is expected to sign off on a forgivable loan with the Illinois EPA on Monday. That will fund 410 water line replacements at a cost of $1.7 million. The city is also replacing lead service lines on normal water main replacement projects.

Galesburg's Jefferson Street shows its age. Brick streets and sidewalks reflect a bygone era. The city will rebuild it, and replace a century-old water main running underneath. Bright paint also shows 31 lead water lines connecting home after home throughout the neighborhood. Homes including Caleb Diefendorf's house.

"It's just been something that's needed done, it's been a long time coming, and I'm excited they're finally going to do the lead lines, get rid of all that," said homeowner Caleb Diefendorf.

He has a two-year-old daughter. He took her to get lead tested last year as Galesburg's lead woes came to light.

"She came out ok, she still had higher than normal than she should have at her age but it was nothing too serious," said Diefendorf.

He lets his water run a few minutes every morning to flush any lead. It's a temporary solution until the city fixes the problem for good.

"It's not something you really think about until its brought to your attention," said Diefendorf.

A second contractor will start replacing 410 lead service lines in other parts of the city later this month. The bids came in higher than expected, so Galesburg does not expect to be able to replace 2/3rd of the lead lines with this single loan. But Public Works Director Wayne Carl said he's hopeful costs will come down once this first contract is complete.

"After we do this first contract, that'll take some of the unknowns out, I think the contractors had to protect themselves a little bit, this is the first contract like this in the state," said Carl.

Galesburg has 3,000 active service lines within the city to replace. The city plans to replace them all. Diefendorf said he'll just be grateful when his neighborhood's all fixed up.

"You become a parent man and everything changes you got to really worry about more stuff than you ever thought of," said Diefendorf.

The city is looking at several options to fill the funding gap for these replacements. It may be able to get additional loans, although they may not be 100 percent forgivable. The city could also hire additional staff to do the work in-house, rather than contracting it all out.

Residents on the first project have already been notified. The work will take two to three hours to complete at each home.
Residents will need to be home to give the contractor access.