Although lead pipes are often thought of as relics of a bygone era, they are still a common component of water systems. Recent estimates indicate that up to 12.8 million homes in the U.S. are served by water systems with lead service lines, which are most common in older homes and infrastructure. In the past, lead was a common water service line material in building and water system projects because of its malleability, durability and resistance to corrosion. Also, lead pipes' resistance to pinhole leaks made them cheaper and easier to maintain than many other types of pipes. However, lead is now a known hazard in water supply systems. To combat this, steps are being taken across the country to replace lead service lines and reduce lead exposure.
This blog post will discuss the dangers of lead service lines, the legislative steps being taken to update lead pipe infrastructure and how communities can work with water engineers at Fehr Graham to create a comprehensive lead management plan.
Lead pipes are a known risk because if they are disturbed and the scale is built up on the pipe surface, lead can leach into the water supply. It then accumulates in the bodies of people who drink the water. This poses particular danger to children, pregnant women and adults with preexisting conditions.
There are several ways to reduce lead in tap water, including:
At the national and local levels, there has been increased awareness of the need to eliminate lead service lines in water systems and to limit the danger posed by lead service lines. On the national level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has led the charge. Funding and regulatory support have made it easier and more feasible for communities to tackle challenges posed by lead service lines.
At the national level, eliminating lead service lines has become a major focus. The result has been increased funding for mitigation and service line replacement and stricter regulation and reporting requirements. Examples include:
States such as Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey also have passed laws mandating complete lead service line replacement. Examples of recent changes include:
Although lead service line replacement is a priority in many communities, it is also a complex process that can take years or even decades. To complete a service line replacement project, communities need to plan strategically.
For example, they can coordinate their lead service line replacement with other capital improvement plans. If you plan to replace a water main in the next few years, you can replace associated service lines as part of the main project.
The biggest challenges these projects face are often administrative. This includes:
Lead service line replacement is a major undertaking. An average replacement in an urban area can cost $8,000 to $15,000. Because of the financial, administrative and strategic challenges, communities often find they need help to successfully complete these projects .
Service line replacement is a multiyear, community-wide endeavor that requires strategic planning. Fehr Graham can help with everything from funding and data collection to site supervision and water engineering.
The experienced team at Fehr Graham has managed projects to replace more than 1,000 service lines. We will work with your community to create a comprehensive plan to mitigate the dangers of lead service lines.