The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Statement on Key Water Issues from Illinois Municipal League Executive Director, Brad Cole

Posted on June 05, 2024 at 02:37 PM

This is the first in a series of presentations we will be sending out over the next several weeks from presenters at the Mat 30-31, 2024 Delta Caucus Zoom meeting.

This is a statement about water policy from Brad Cole, Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League. He has been a stalwart Delta advocate since he worked with Rhonda Vinson on the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission in the late 1980s to 1990. This focuses on Illinois but water issues are vital across the entire region. Southern Illinois, of course, is an integral part of the region. Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus

Illinois Municipal League Advocacy Update: Water Policy

Water quality standards and regulations are important public health policies put in place to ensure that drinking water is safe and free of contaminants. Today, prevalent policy discussions regarding water quality regulations typically focus on lead and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) water contamination levels.

In Illinois, water suppliers are in the final stages of collecting a final material inventory of their service lines, and are in the beginning stages of replacing the lead in their systems. Lead service line identification and replacement is an expensive and time-consuming process, but in Illinois, it is well underway.

Looming federal regulations, regarding both lead and PFAS, could, however, drastically change the requirements and increase the financial burden placed on Illinois water suppliers, many of which are owned and operated by municipalities. The Illinois Municipal League (IML) has been at the forefront of conversations regarding lead and PFAS regulations at both the state and federal level. IML advocates for policy that will protect public health, while simultaneously setting realistic standards and timelines for water suppliers to meet.

In 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act (Act) into law. The Act requires owners or operators of community water supplies to develop and maintain a complete material inventory of lead service lines and to implement a comprehensive plan for the replacement of those lines according to defined timelines decided by the number of lead service lines identified in the material inventory.

Community water suppliers were to complete and submit their final material inventory and initial replacement plan to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) by April 15, 2024 unless approved for an extension. The inventory must report the composition of all service lines in the water distribution system.

Under current Illinois law, beginning on April 24, 2027, community water suppliers will have between 15 and 50 years to complete replacement depending on the amount of lead service lines identified in the system. Community water suppliers will have the ability to request an extension of up to 20% of the original replacement timeline, which must be approved by IEPA.

IEPA has not yet compiled all of the 2023 inventory reports, which were due April 15. However, based on the most recent reports posted to their website, of the nearly 4 million service lines identified, just over 640,000 are lead and approximately 661,000 are made up of unknown material.

A 2023 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) report estimates that Illinois has more than one million lead service lines, which is more per capita than any other state in the country. Presently, over 2.5 million service lines have been identified as not lead.

The Lead Service Line Replacement Advisory Board (Board), in its report of recommendations delivered to the Governor and the General Assembly in June 2023, identified two main factors (technical and financial) driving lead service line replacement. The Board highlights key technical challenges – like establishing an accurate inventory, collaborating with property owners and other water suppliers and ensuring a sufficient work force – that will impact community water supplies’ ability to timely and adequately comply with the Act. The Board also notes that Illinois is not currently positioned to finance total lead replacement.

Because many municipalities own or operate a community water supply, IML has a special interest in the progress of lead service line identification and replacement. On March 15, 2024, IML sent a survey to all 1,786 community water supplies in Illinois. The purpose of the survey was to identify common challenges community water suppliers have experienced while implementing replacement, as well as to track statewide progress. IML received 422 survey submissions.

IML has not yet performed an in-depth analysis of the survey results; however, 145 survey participants provided an estimated cost of replacement and the estimated amount of funding received from outside programs (such as federal and state grant programs, loans, local funding methods, etc.).

Based on participant responses, the funding provided from outside programs has currently only covered 4.5% of the estimated total cost of replacement reported in the survey, which totaled nearly $2.2 billion [As a reminder, this does not reflect the total statewide cost of replacement, and only reflects a total of the 145 estimates reported to IML via survey].

To put this in perspective, IEPA has estimated that the cost of total lead service line replacement in the State of Illinois will range between $5.8 billion and $10 billion. Absent direct state or federal funding, community water suppliers are responsible for paying the costs associated with the replacement of lead service lines within their water distribution systems. The Act allows community water suppliers to require property owners to pay for replacement of the private portion of the service line if the community water supplier is utilizing its own funds.

IML continues to advocate for increased funding to support replacement efforts, as well as extended compliance timelines to alleviate financial pressure on water suppliers and in turn their customers.

On November 30, 2023, the United States EPA announced proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), which would require the vast majority of community water suppliers in the United States to replace lead service lines within 10 years. Proposed LCRI require community water suppliers to provide USEPA with an initial inventory of their lead service lines by October 16, 2024, with the completion of lead service line replacement by 2034. USEPA has also proposed additional improvements to protect public health, like a lower lead action level and improved sampling protocols utilized by water systems.

On December 15, 2023, IML submitted formal comments to USEPA regarding the impact the proposed LCRI would have on community water supplies in Illinois, and on January 16, 2024, I [IML Chief Executive Officer Brad Cole] testified in a USEPA virtual public hearing to share verbal comments about the proposed LCRI. In the submitted formal comments, IML requests USEPA provide a full exemption from future LCRI rulemaking to states that already have lead service line replacement requirements in place, and specifically an exemption for the State of Illinois.

The timeline in the proposed LCRI would have a significant impact on Illinois’ current lead service line replacement mandate. Under the proposed LCRI, the vast majority of lead service lines would be required to be replaced by 2034, nearly a full decade before some of Illinois’ smallest communities are required to complete replacement under state law.

The 10-year timeline for replacement proposed in LCRI is unrealistic and not feasible. Even with unlimited financial resources, which is not the reality for most communities, community water supplies would not be able to complete replacement under the timeline in the proposed LCRI due to workforce shortages.

Additionally, on April 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation regarding six PFAS. The regulation sets enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for six PFAS. The final rule requires public water systems to complete the initial monitoring for PFAS by 2027, followed by ongoing monitoring for compliance. Water systems are also required to provide the public with information regarding the level of PFAS in their drinking water starting in 2027. By 2029, water systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS if monitoring shows PFAS in drinking water exceeding the MCLs.

On May 24, IML sent a letter to the Illinois Congressional Delegation regarding a statutory protection for water systems from liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) for PFAS to help ensure polluters pay for PFAS cleanup, not the public. The letter asks members of the delegation to support S. 1430, the Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis, in order to protect water system customers from being held financially liable for PFAS regulations. The designation of PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA means that water systems that passively receive these substances into their systems due to an upstream polluter depositing the chemicals into their water supplies could face CERCLA cleanup liability.

It is critical that Congress moves quickly to ensure that water systems and their customers are not unfairly held financially liable for PFAS contamination.

IML has created dedicated fact sheets about both lead and PFAS regulation, available at, and has a dedicated webpage,, which is regularly updated with PFAS regulation information. IML continues to be a leading voice, at both the state and federal levels, advocating for policies that prioritize public health while alleviating the financial pressure placed on water systems and their customers.

BRAD COLE, Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League