Replacing a lead service line with copper in Madison, Wisconsin. (Madison Water Utility photo)

City staff says Evanston will need to increases its water rates 5% next year and another 4% in 2024 to pay for staff needed to replace lead water service lines across the city.

Water and sewer rate adjustments at the start of this year led to a net 2% increase.

Interim Deputy City Manager Dave Stoneback says the two new rate hikes would fund a projected $861,000 a year for salaries and materials to carry out the lead line replacements mandated under state law.

The city plans to hire six Evanstonians as workforce development employees to start staffing the program this year and then add full-time permanent positions in 2023 and 2024 — in hopes the workforce hires will then be able to qualify for the permanent jobs.

Stoneback says the program will also need $930,000 in new equipment to do the work, which he says can be purchased through American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The lead service line replacement program is expected to take decades to complete, since the vast majority of Evanston homes are still serviced by lead water lines.

Ingesting lead is associated with a wide range of health issues. The city treats the water supply with chemicals designed to reduce the chance of lead leaching from pipes into the water, but the state legislation adopted last year is based on the conclusion that the lead lines still pose a health risk that is worth the expense to eliminate.

The City Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution setting up the workforce development program Monday night.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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