A lead water service line connected to a water meter in a home. (Shutterstock)

Some water lines made of potentially toxic lead will be replaced in Evanston, thanks to a $1 million grant from the State of Illnois.

State Sen. Mike Simmons, whose district includes South Evanston, announced the funding Friday, in a news conference along with U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Ald. Devon Reid (8th).

The funding, Simmons said, represents “two years of work” in pushing for the money.

Simmons said he has had relatives in South Evanston for decades, and “to jump start the replacement of lead lines means a lot to me,” particularly in a community with a large number of Black and brown residents.

The City says that lead is not in drinking water when it leaves the treatment plant, but some dwellings, particularly those built before 1986, have pipes made of lead. Some of that lead can dissolve into the water before it comes out of your tap.

Lead exposure can lead to a variety of blood, brain, and kidney illnesses.

City spokesperson Patrick Deignan tells Evanston Now that there are 10,288 homeowner-owned service lines in Evanston “that need to be replaced due to being at least partial lead or galvanized steel.”

New or replacement lines are made of copper.

Water lines in the street and the parkway are owned by the city. Those mains connect to lines running to the house. Those lines belong to the home owner.

Normally, line replacement in the street is paid for by the city, while replacing a line to the house is up to the home owner.

In 2022, however, the city began a pilot program of covering the full street-to-home expenses in low-to-moderate income areas where main lines had been replaced.

It’s unclear if the new $1 million grant will only cover city-owned mains, or also pay for replacement of lines going from the street main into private homes.

Also to be determined, how many lines and homes the $1 million will impact, although Simmons said it will provice a “sizeable leap forward.”

Several South Evanston residents attended the news conference, including Deirdre Allen.

Allen said she was not sure if her home has lead water lines, but based on its age she would not be surprised.

Allen said she plans to be “very vigilant,” and continue using a water filter.

In about a month, Sen. Simmons will no longer represent South Evanston due to redistricting, but he said he’ll still “push the bureaucracy” to work on health-related issues locally and statewide.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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