Lead Service Lines and Lead Testing

Important information about the potential for lead in your drinking water

Following the 2014 Flint, Michigan crisis, concerns about lead contamination of water have received a lot of publicity and spawned legislation at the state and federal levels. 

Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency revised its Lead and Copper Rule and Illinois enacted companion rules intended to eliminate all lead service lines over a period of time.

A water service line has two components, public service line and private service line. The public service line, owned and maintained by the city is the water main(s) that distribute water throughout the city. The private service line, owned and maintained by property owners, is the service line that connects at a fitting (corporation stop) on the water main and continues to the curb stop and then into the house. Homeowners should be aware of three potential sources of lead in drinking water. In order of importance, they are: lead service lines, lead-tin solder joined copper pipes installed prior to 1986, and brass water contact surfaces of faucets. Lead service lines are typically only present in older homes built prior to 1940. Those homes may still have a lead service line. The three main preventative measures to ensure the water in your home is lead-free are to flush your piping, test your water, and identify your service line material. Homeowners can verify if their service line is lead by preforming a simple test at home or an Illinois licensed plumber can confirm if a lead service line is present, check for lead solders in internal pipes, and look for water fixtures containing lead.

It is likely that many water service lines in Highwood have been replaced with copper or other approved material since the drinking water system was first built, but several are probably still in use today.

Water Service line Identification

Please view our Service line identification video at the link below or complete the following test.

Service Line identification Video

To find out if you have a lead, copper, or galvanized steel service on your property, you (or your landlord) can perform a Materials Verification Test on the water service line where it enters your home to determine the material of the water service line on your property. For property owners who are unsure of the material composition of the water line connecting your property to the water main, the following instructions will help identify key characteristics of both lead and copper water lines.

Instructions for identifying the material composition of your water service line: 

Possible tools needed (some conclusions can be made by observation):

  • a key or coin
  • a refrigerator magnet

 Locate the water service line coming into the property.  This is typically found in the basement or lowest level of the structure.  The pictures below may help to assist with locating the water line point of entry.

Identify a test area on the pipe between the point where it comes into the home and the inlet valve or water meter.  If the pipe is covered or wrapped, expose a small area of metal.

Use the edge of the key or coin to scratch through any corrosion that may have built up on the outside of the pipe.  Do not use a knife or other sharp instrument and take care not to puncture a hole in the pipe. 

 Copper Water Service Line

 If the scraped area is copper in color, like a penny, your service line is copper.  A magnet will not stick to a copper service line















Lead Water Service Line

If the scraped area is shiny and silver, the service line is lead.  The refrigerator magnet will not stick to a lead pipe; however, it will stick to a galvanized connector.  If the refrigerator magnet sticks to the connector, but not the pipe, the water service line is most likely lead.

Galvanized Water Service line

Depending on the age of the home, i.e. typically built before 1940, it is possible that a customer-side galvanized iron service line is or was once connected to a lead “gooseneck” section that completes its connection at the water main.  This situation would provide the potential for lead to accumulate within the galvanized iron service line portion.  Under the recently passed State Law, Public Act 102-0613, these service lines are to be treated as if they are made of lead.  In such instances, homeowners’ may want to test their water for lead and consider replacing the service line.