Galesburg reveals measures designed to reduce lead levels

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GALESBURG, Illinois - Galesburg is taking steps to reduce lead levels detected in aging water service lines and other sources.

The city plans to follow EPA recommendations for testing and filtering suspected water.

Measures should help to cut lead levels in some homes.

Galesburg's lead levels spark emotional responses.

"Come on, we're poisoning people," said Walt McAllister, Galesburg.  "Lead is an issue."

Inside Q's Cafe on Wednesday, lunch customers worry about water from an estimated 4,700 lead service lines that top federal action levels.

"My mother made a call to the city this morning," said Mike DeWeese, Galesburg.  "Testing kits aren't available at this time."

That's changing in coming days.

After EPA recommendations, the city will provide free water testing for customers with a lead service line.

It will also supply filters if testing tops the action level for lead.

Galesburg residents can start by checking the online tool at, or by calling the water division at (309) 345-3649.

"If it helps people have a comfort level and helps them address the situation in the short term, we think it will be beneficial," said Galesburg City Manager Todd Thompson.

Ultimately, property owners are still responsible for replacing lead service lines.  That costs from $2,000-3,000.

While testing and filters are temporary measures, the real culprit emerges from deteriorating homes.

Since 81% of Galesburg homes were built before 1978, that's where the city would like to focus its spending.

Water is one component in a decades-old problem that includes the environment and aging homes.

"Lead paint is a big part of it," said Erin Olson, wellness director for the Knox County Health Department.  "There's soil, some of the toys, even mini-blinds -- that's what you don't think about."

The health department offers lead risk assessments in homes where children tested with high levels.

There's no money as of now for lead remediation.

That could become a bigger issue in coming years.

Galesburg's response will cost the city about $90,000.

It also includes a corrosion study on its water system.

"The corrosion program should go a long way in reducing the number of homes that are over the EPA action level," said Ald. Jeremy Karlin.  "We'd like to get the better of this issue, but we know what causes it.  Our resources, limited resources, should be focused on that."

While Ald. Karlin and others worry about long-term unfunded mandates, there's also a call to action.

"Let's fix it, for crying out loud," McAllister concluded.  "We can get together on this."




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