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Lead service line removal is a team effort

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Lead service line removal is a team effort

We’re likely to hear a good deal about lead exposure from drinking water in the months ahead, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) receives feedback on its proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI). One of the key pieces of the proposed regulation is that most water service lines made from lead be removed within 10 years.

Replacing lead service lines is a worthy endeavor. Lead is a known health concern, particularly for young children. The sooner we can remove all sources of lead from our communities, the better off we will be.

A service line is the pipe that connects the home to the community water system, or in other words, to the water main running below the street. In many cases, part of the line is on public property, and a portion is on private property. That means property owners and water providers will have to collaborate to remove the entire line.

The passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act makes $15 billion in federal money available to locate and remove lead pipes, but nationally, the cost could top $90 billion. That’s because the cost of removing each service line can cost more than $10,000, presenting affordability challenges for communities, and in some cases, for property owners who are responsible for part of the cost. Because of the availability of this federal funding, cities like Providence, Rhode Island, have launched lead service line removal programs where water utilities replace the full lead service line whenever they encounter one while working on water mains. Other cities, like Denver, have programs that specifically locate and remove lead service lines.

For lead service line removal programs to be successful, property owners and households will need to work with water utilities to identify lead service lines and provide access for removal. The process will take time, but when all lead lines are finally gone, we can all feel better about our drinking water quality.

Together, we can get the lead out.

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