Winchester Water System Upgrades Moving Forward

By Benjamin Cox on March 21, 2023 at 6:01pm

The City of Winchester’s updates to its water system is moving along after some recent mandates from the federal government.

In February, the city received both a low-interest loan and a grant totaling almost $3.4 million for the city’s water system improvement. The city was in the middle of preliminary work on updates to the system, and Mayor Rex McIntire says that’s when the federal mandates came down about work that needed to be done immediately: “We were getting ready to start on our water main replacement project, doing the preliminary work and helping the engineers from Benton & Associates with the design. We had to do a lot of locations of utilities and things like that so that they could better design the project. In the meantime, we had mandates come down about lead water service lines. Just recently, we leased a VAC truck in order to go through the different areas in town. We’ve got a little over 800 service lines that we’re having to locate and expose with the VAC truck to see what kind of materials we have going on those service lines. If they are lead service lines or galvanized, they will have to be replaced all the way to the residence.”

McIntire says the mandate is due in part to the issues that occurred in Flint, Michigan that began back in 2014. The Biden-Harris Administration announced in late January a $1.2 billion plan in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law revolving loan funds that would help replace lead service lines in 23 states. Prior to that Illinois became the second state in the nation by mandating full lead service line replacement by all water systems in August 2021. Illinois municipalities with lead service lines have until April 15th to submit an inventory of lead services lines to the Illinois EPA with a plan to replace those lines submitted to the state by April 2024. The state has also set aside the Lead Service Line Replacement Fund for municipalities like Winchester to apply for funding to replace lead and/or galvanized service lines.

McIntire says the lease of the VAC truck will also help patch potholes on Winchester city street. He says that as of last week the city’s Utility Department has been able to take care of a small portion of the lead and galvanized service lines: “So far, I think we’ve got…with what maps where we already knew what the materials were and the ones we’ve located, we’ve located a little over 200 of the 800 service lines. So, we’re about 25% or better complete.”

The city also set aside an additional $25,000 at their March monthly meeting to take care of some other eminent needs within the utility department. The city purchased a $2,000 chemical water treatment pump to help absorb more caustic materials, two water meters, a pressure washer, and repairs for the HVAC system at the water tower.

The close on the water system improvements are expected to begin late this summer with possible construction set to begin this Fall.