As Brookfield begins in earnest the task of replacing all lead water service lines in the village, officials got a bit of good news recently.
As crews changing out water meter transmission units have taken inventory of the number of lead service lines they’re encountering, they are reporting far fewer lead lines than expected.
Village Engineer Derek Treichel told elected officials during an update at the village board’s July 24 committee of the whole meeting that instead of an estimated 5,500 lead service lines, Brookfield had closer to 3,100.
With the cost of swapping out one lead service line hovering at around $10,000, that means a savings to the village – and, by extension, residents — of about $24 million when the state-mandated changeover is complete.
That said, the village’s two-pronged plan to replace the oldest water mains in the village and all of the lead water service lines will still end up costing tens of millions of dollars.
Previously, the village had hoped that it would qualify for up to $4 million in loans from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency each year – loans that would eventually be forgiven – to fund much of the work. However, the IEPA has told Brookfield it is no longer forgiving the low-interest loans.
In March, Brookfield submitted a project plan for the first two phases of its water main replacement program, which included replacing all of the lead service lines connected to those mains.
The project plan also included a program to replace 1,200 lead service lines connected to mains that are not scheduled to be replaced in the near future.
The total estimated cost of all of those projects was about $31 million, although due to fewer than expected lead service lines being encountered that figure will likely come down by several million dollars.
The IEPA has reportedly accepted the project plan in its entirety, and it appears likely that Brookfield will be able to obtain low-interest loans from the IEPA to fund the Phase I water main/lead service line replacement, which is expected to cost roughly $5.3 million and replace some 8,200 feet of water main in various spots around the village.
If IEPA funding is approved for those projects, the Phase I work will take place in 2024.
In addition, Brookfield plans to apply for up to $3 million annually to fund replacement of lead water services that are not part of water main replacement projects. If successful, that amount of money could pay for the replacement of 250 lead water services each year, putting the village on a path to complete the lead water service changeout in 10 years.
In 2021, village officials raised water rates 18.5% to service any debt the village would have to incur to pay for the water main replacement and then raised rates another 14% in 2022 to fund lead service line replacement.
The IEPA loans will spread the cost over 20 years, and village officials may need to adjust water rates in the future to pay for whatever debt Brookfield ends up taking on. Based on current prices and interest rates, according to Treichel, the village may need to again look at adjusting water rates in 2027.
But, with about $800,000 in revenue already generated by the 2021 and 2022 water rate increases, the village this year will begin replacing about 60 lead service lines that have been identified as leaking.