Aurora is moving toward replacing more lead water pipes in the public right-of-way.
The City Council’s Infrastructure and Technology Committee this week recommended adopting unit prices for the replacement of what are called “long side" lead water service lines from within the city’s right-of-way.
The prices would cover work on about 160 service lines that are either leaking, or have other maintenance problems. The city has developed a list of the pipes, which are only in the city’s right-of-way and not on private property.
While the city is looking at replacing all lead water service lines eventually, it is doing it gradually through a program. Lines that are leaking or have other maintenance issues are the first to be replaced, city officials have said.
The “long side” refers to what side of the roadway a water main runs. It usually runs to one side or the other of a given street, so connections to individual households along the street are either long or short.
The city owns and operates a water distribution system, but the city’s responsibility and ownership ends where the homeowners’ service line connects to the water on private property.
The city uses no lead pipes, but some of the service lines are lead. Because of the testing the city does and the way it treats its water, those service lines present no likely health problem if they are left as they are, city officials have said.
But if the water line that connects to those lines is disturbed - such as the city repairing a water main for a leak or a break, or the city doing a sewer project that requires moving or breaking the water line - it could result in an unhealthy amount of lead in the water from the service line.
At that point, city officials want the lead service lines replaced.
In late 2018, the City Council adopted a program to help people replace lead pipes that bring drinking water into their homes. The plan provides a choice of mechanisms by which homeowners can deal with the lead water service lines.
There are 48,000 service lines on private properties in Aurora, and the city estimates about half of them are lead. Most of those are in older houses, which means they largely would be in the section of Aurora between Orchard Road on the West Side to Farnsworth Avenue on the East Side.
The city’s program gives homeowners three choices.
If their line is disturbed, they can pay a contractor, from a list of approved contractors provided by the city, to upgrade their service lines. The city has estimated the cost at about $3,000. That varies because of the types of connections there are to houses.
The second option, for homeowners who do not want to pay for it at once or cannot afford it, is to borrow the money from the city at an interest rate of about 2%. The homeowner then pays back the city over 10 years through the monthly water bill.
The third option is for homeowners to sign a waiver saying they do not want to upgrade the connection and that they understand the potential health danger.
The recommendation this week is only for work the city would do in the public right-of-way. But officials said when the city does a repair on the about 160 long lines on its list, homeowners have the choice to repair their line, using the city’s program.
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