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Water companies are asking customers to help look for lead in water lines

Lead may be a useful metal, but in drinking water it can harm people’s health in the long term.

Because lead in drinking water comes primarily from water lines made of lead, water utilities in Indiana are required to conduct an inventory of their lead service lines this year.

Customers may be asked to help with inventory.

The city of Valparaiso and Indiana American Water have announced plans to conduct inventory in the areas they serve. Officials with the Hammond and East Chicago water utilities did not respond to requests for information for this story.

“We want the public to know that water in Valparaiso is safe, and we have an extensive inventory of service lines on our end,” Matt Zurbriggen, Valparaiso’s deputy director of city services, said in a news release. “We now need to provide an inventory showing the materials used on the customer side of the line and ask for help from the community to fulfill this requirement.”

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is requiring a lead inventory be created in home service lines this year to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Typically, the water utility owns the service line from the water main to the customer’s property line. The customer owns the water line from the property line to the home.

Water line composition is important because studies have shown that lead enters drinking water primarily through lead water lines.

Valparaiso residents will be asked to participate in the water line survey by examining service lines and submitting the information to the public service or by allowing a licensed knocker to enter the home and conduct an inspection. Door knockers will feature company badges and appointments can be arranged in advance, the public service announcement said.

Indiana American Water, whose Northwest Indiana service area includes Gary, Merrillville, Hobart, Portage and Chesterton, is “actively updating our lead service line inventory for both corporate and customer-served portions of the communities we serve,” the company’s director of external relations wrote. in an email.

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

In one Chicago neighborhood, lead pipes are being replaced with copper. Water companies are asking Lake and Porter County residents to help report lead in their pipes. File – Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune

“We will make this information available via a publicly available web-based map later this year,” he added, “prior to the requirements of the U.S. EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule Revisions.”

He said the company’s inventory may include in-home inspections and “digging test pits to look at service lines.”

“We also plan to launch a web-based tool that will allow our customers to identify and report on their service lines’ materials and will post a link to it on our website,” Loughmiller added.

Valparaiso also said it will offer a website for customers to report service line materials or schedule an in-home evaluation.

“Compilation of this information is a federal requirement,” Valparaiso said in the news release. “However, this information also benefits our community as we learn about potential lead service lines in homes.

“We want to help residents be aware and also help them qualify for possible funding that may be made available to them in the future to replace main service lines in their homes.”

Loughmiller said Indiana American Water has invested about $97 million to replace or remove almost 30,000 lead service lines in its Indiana service areas.

This includes approximately 16,600 main service lines replaced or retired throughout Indiana American’s service area in Lake and Porter counties.

The Valparaiso water system reports that 328 lead service lines have been replaced since 1983. It is stated that 527 of them are still active and all of them are in the part of the water system belonging to the Valparaiso Water Department.

Tests since 2008 have shown lead levels in drinking water to range from 2.5 to 6.5 parts per billion, the agency reported; this was well below the 15 parts per billion action level, which would trigger further monitoring and treatment requirements.

Tim Zorn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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