Chicago Attempts to Fix its Lead Problem

lead pipes

Chicago is one of the last cities to stop using lead in the service lines. It was so widely used that it wasn't until 1986 when congress officially banned the practice that Chicago stopped using it. Now over 400,000 homes in Chicago are using lead service lines, that's 4x more than Detroit. They anticipate replacing 2,400 homes per year for 45 million per year.

Today the Chicago Tribune featured the plans and objectives of the city. You can read it here.

Is there a safe lead limit?
The EPA measures what limits of contaminants are consumable without adverse health reactions. These health goals are based on possible health risks and adequate margins of safety. In the case of lead, the EPA has ruled that zero is the maximum contaminant level for drinking water because lead is toxic and accumulates in the body over time.

Adverse Health Effects of Lead

In Children
Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
Behavior and learning problems
Lower IQ and hyperactivity
Slowed growth
Hearing problems
In rare cases, the ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma, and even death.

In Pregnant Women
Reduced growth of the fetus
Premature birth
Find out more about lead's effects on pregnancy:
Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk. Read more on lead exposure in pregnancy and lactating women (PDF) (302 pp, 4.3 MB, About PDF)

In Adults
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:
Cardiovascular effects increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension.
Decreased kidney function.
Reproductive problems (in both men and women).

If you have an old lead service line (from the street to your home) and you want it replaced, give Green Tech Plumbing a call. We've been serving the Northwestern Suburbs for more than a decade. We can help you change out that water service line from Lead to Copper, type K, which meets or exceeds building codes in all fifty states.


Sewer Line Backups

Raw sewage can damage property, spread disease, and ruin your day. When your sewer is acting up address it immediately before it becomes an emergency. Avoid hiring a handyman to handle the problem, qualified plumbers have a lot more experience. Don't flush anything that isn't human waste or thin toilet paper. If raw sewage is backing up into your home, keep family members and pets a safe distance from sewage. Ultimately, untreated sewage is a real health hazard, you need someone trained, insured, and licensed to handle the problem as soon as possible.

Main Line Sewer Backups

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Your sewers will speak to you in subtle ways if you're paying attention. For example, if all the drains in your house are moving slowly, including the laundry lines, it's likely the mainline is clogged. If it is isolated to a single fixture, like a kitchen sink, then it's most likely a localized clog instead of a mainline. Another noticeable symptom of a mainline sewer problem is strange behavior at the fixtures. This can manifest in odd ways such as shower/tub drains backing up when a toilet is flushed and noticeable odors. Finally, check your plumbing cleanout, if it is filled with waste, debris, and water then you have a mainline sewer clog.


Hire a Plumber For Sewer Clogs

Avoid Handymen & DIYers

If you have a blockage in your sewer line, hire a professional plumber. The cost of unclogging a sewer drain is going to be a lot cheaper than the cleanup costs later. Resist taking this on as a do-it-yourself project. Plumbers have thousands of hours of hands-on experience and hundreds of hours of classroom training. Additionally, plumbers have to follow codes and regulations and we carry insurance. Handymen and DIYer projects are good for small things like installing a toilet but not for snaking a clean-out.

What Causes Blockages

Why Does My Sewer Line Backup?

The single biggest culprit behind sewer line clogs is flushing personal hygiene products, wipes, and thick toilet paper. We tell our customers to use "single and double-ply prison paper" instead of the luxury brands. Ultra-plush and soft toilet paper create "soft clogs" that can be difficult to rod. Soft clogs can quickly or immediately reappear after snaking the drain. In those situations, we use our hydro-jetting equipment to completely clean the outside walls of the pipe/line.

Tree roots are another sewer line killer, especially if you have clay pipes. The roots will scour your plumbing line looking for cracks and moisture. Once it finds a weak spot it will penetrate the line and start growing inside of the pipe. This can lead to blockages and even sewer collapses, depending on how badly the pipe is damaged. Flush-able chemicals that kill tree roots are on store shelves but in our experience they rarely work well enough to make a difference.

Another common problem with sewer lines is age. The older a house is the more likely you are to have a sewer problem. Older homes use less reliable materials like clay piping and, as time goes on, the soil compresses, and the pressure on the pipe increases. This in turn leads to bellied pipes and sewer collapses. This is why we always recommend a plumbing inspection before purchasing a property.

Storms, torrential downpours and flash floods are out of your control. But, they can still cause major sewer problems. When city storm drains / sewers become overwhelmed they'll start backing up into your home. Overhead sewers and flood control systems can help prevent this, but most homes unfortunately do not have them.

Everybody's situation is different but a few things are universal. Don't flush things down the drain that don't belong there like grease, wipes, and tampons. Avoid planting trees near sewer pipes because of the roots. Lastly, take a proactive approach to your plumbing. Keep an eye out for warning signs your sewer is having problems and consider sending a camera down your mainline to get a better look at the material.

Emergency Sewer Problems

What You Should Do When The Sewer Backs Up

If you have water uncontrollably rushing in, turn off your HVAC system and cover your floor vents. Next, ensure that family members and pets are a safe distance from the sewage. Especially, vulnerable family members with compromised immune systems. If your comfortable doing it, check the cleanout for water and debris. Throw away any personal items that may have been damaged by untreated sewage. Finally, call a professional plumbing company to come and assess the situation. Act quickly, the longer the sewage sits the worse it is for your property and health.

Clogged Plumbing Lines

Everything You Need To Know

Don't let a sewer problem become a crisis, plumbing lines never fix themselves. Only hire qualified licensed plumbers, don't take it on as a DIY project, and avoid the handyman. Don't flush wipes, tampons, grease, diapers, or ultra-soft/plush toilet papers. Pay attention to the early warning signs of sewer problems and treat all sewage as diseased and harmful to your health. Throw away damaged items and call your insurance company to see if you have coverage. Finally, don't risk your health and your property. When in doubt, call a licensed plumber, they'll know exactly what to do.


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