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Water, paint, soil: lead exposure across Heart of Illinois

The state’s Environmental Protection Agency published a report earlier this month.

In it, anyone can check how many water service lines are used in their area, and if they’re made of plastic, copper or lead.

“The water quality is the same for all of them,” explained Wayne Carl, Director of Galesburg’s Public Works. “The only exception would be if you have a lead service line and the water sits in the pipe for a period of time, it could accumulate lead.”

It’s a problem being tackled all across the state.

In Galesburg, for example, there are about two thousand home with lead service lines.

By contrast, Bloomington only has eight.

But Peoria has over 11,000 listed in the report.

While that sounds like a public health crisis, most of those cities have very little lead in the water, well below the state’s action level.

“Just because a pipe is made of lead doesn’t mean the water is contaminated,” said Karen Cotton of Illinois American Water.

She went on to explain that many lead pipes have a coating on the inside that acts as a barrier between the lead of the pipe and water flowing through it, preventing breakdown.

That doesn’t mean there’s no risk for lead exposure, though.

As the Peoria County EPA’s website claims, Peoria has one of the highest lead poisoning rates in the state.

The cause isn’t the water – it’s the soil.

“Any kind of lead that people could pick up from their environment, whether it be from makeup, paint, water service lines…we want to reduce and try to eliminate that,” said Carl.

Lead paint from old homes can easily peel and flake off, where it then breaks down in the soil and lasts for decades.

It’s recommended you wash your hands with soap and water after working outside your home.

Mason Dowling

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