Lead Service Lines and Lead Testing

Important information about the potential for lead in your drinking water

For appointments and information regarding water service line testing, contact:  

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. Water Service line Identification

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.


Lead testing in Drinking Water

EPA Lead and Copper Testing
Every three years Highwood samples water from 20 homes with lead service lines and analyzes them for lead content. In 2021, the 90th percentile value for our water system, was below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established lead action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).  There were 20 homes tested and all sampled homes were below the action level.

What Does This Mean? 
Under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA set the action level for lead in drinking water at 15 ppb.  This means utilities must ensure that water from the customer’s tap does not exceed this level in at least 90 percent of the homes sampled (90th percentile value). The action level is the concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements which a water system must follow.  If water from the tap does exceed this limit, then the utility must take certain steps to correct the problem. Because lead may pose serious health risks, the EPA set a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of zero for lead.  The MCLG is the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety. 
Higher lead levels may be due to conditions unique to a home, such as the presence of lead solder or brass faucets, fittings and valves that may contain lead.  There are actions you can take to reduce exposure.  We strongly urge you to take the steps below to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.

What Are The Health Effects of Lead? 
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development. 
What Are The Sources of Lead? 
The primary sources of lead exposure for most children are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, and lead-contaminated residential soil. Exposure to lead is a significant health concern, especially for young children and infants whose growing bodies tend to absorb more lead than the average adult. Although the 90th percentile value for our water system are below the action level, if you are concerned about lead exposure, parents should ask their health care providers about testing children for high levels of lead in the blood. 
What Can I Do To Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water? 

  • Run your water to flush out lead. If water hasn’t been used for several hours, run water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula.  Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead.  Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead.
  • Look for alternative treatment of water. You may want to consider purchasing a water filter.  Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 800.NSF.8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters.

For More Information

For more information on reducing lead exposure around your home and the health effects of lead, visit EPA’s Lead Web site, call the National Lead Information Center at 800.424.LEAD, or contact your health care provider.