Lead Water Service Lines

2/15/2018

Introduction

Flint, Michigan water tower.There were many factors that led to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., that first was discovered in 2014.

Flint, a city of 100,000 located in the northeast part of the state, had relied on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to provide for drinking and waste water services. The governor appointed an emergency manager to oversee the city's finances and recommended the city provide water and waste water services for itself. This led the Detroit water utility, which had been providing water, to cancel its contract with Flint.

This city was in a bind. With no water from Detroit, the city decided to use a backup water treatment system that tapped water from the Flint River. Residents almost immediately complained that their water tasted bad, smelled horrible and looked unfit to drink. But it wasn't until Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a local pediatrician, began to notice the blood lead levels in her young patients were rising after drinking water from the Flint River that the local Genesee County Health Department issued an emergency health declaration regarding the water.

“We were assured that the water was safe to drink,” says Mark Valacak, Genesee County’s health officer. “We went out on a limb by issuing a public health emergency about lead in the drinking water from the Flint River.”

The lead came from aging water lines, both public and private, that was leaching into the water. The city had failed to add an anti-corrosive agent to the water coming from the Flint River that would have kept lead from seeping into the water. Without this agent, the lead levels in the water rose, as did the blood lead levels in young children.

The county health emergency advised the public to filter water or use bottled water to ensure it was free of lead. The health department provided water filters to all residents. The city plans to start replacing the leaded pipe and galvanized steel services lines. A new regional pipeline will draw water from Lake Huron instead of the Flint River.

But the critical lesson from the Flint water situation was that lead in the water is a significant source of elevated blood lead levels in children. Water is second only to lead-based paint as a source of lead in young children.

The Hazards of Lead

Water pipes with lead in them.Lead is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. The softness, malleability, low melting point, resistance to corrosion (making it ideal for water pipes), low cost and easy workability has made lead a very useful metal. It was added to gasoline to preventing “knocking.” It was used in solder to seal cans of food. Lead was used in house paints to make them stronger. Leaded pipes were used to bring water into homes and buildings.

While no longer used in paint or gasoline, it is still used in batteries, solder, pipes, pottery, roofing materials and some cosmetics. And it is found in aging water service lines.

Lead is a chemical element that cannot be broken down nor is it biodegradable. Once it gets into the environment it remains.

 

Lead and Young Children

Small child's being held by an adult.Lead in the environment finds its way into young children. No amount of lead can be considered safe, and even small amounts found in the blood of young children have been shown to affect their IQ, their ability to pay attention, and even their academic achievement. And the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 535,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 years have elevated blood lead levels. In all, more than 4 million young children live in homes with lead hazards from paint or other sources.

Chart showing blood lead levels in children.

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

After paint, the foremost source of lead in young children is from water. The EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

The CDC once estimated several million children were living with elevated blood lead levels. But efforts by the federal government to ban lead in gasoline and plumbing, in solder in food cans, and along with aggressive efforts by states to control lead hazards in housing, have decreased the number of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Lead in the water harms all age groups, but is particularly harmful to young children and infants. Formula-fed infants are a high-risk group because of their small body weight and heavy reliance on water as a major component of their diet. Young children have a developing nervous system that even minimal amounts of lead effect. Lead exposure at schools where children are exposed to an entire distribution system of lead-contaminated water may increase their lead levels. If they have lead in their water at home, this can harm them as well.

Lead in the Water

Dirty water coming out of a sink.Lead is rarely found naturally in source water or in the treated water flowing through the distribution system. Lead more often leaches into water over time through corrosion of lead in water pipes or their components, dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and plumbing. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on the number of leaded pipes or components in the water system, the amounts of minerals in the water (which can coat the pipes), how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s corrosivity of the pipes, and water temperature.

The EPA has set a standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb) lead to water. However, no amount of lead can be considered safe.

EPA considers a house high-risk for lead in water that:

  • Has a lead service line that connects the water main to the home’s plumbing.
  • Has copper pipe and lead solder built after 1982 but before 1988 (Congress banned the use of lead in drinking water systems after 1988, including private homes).
  • Has any lead water pipes in the home’s plumbing system.

Lead can enter drinking water when pipes and plumbing fixtures that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content. There are three main sources of lead in water:

  • Lead pipes: Lead service lines, the pipe that connects the water main under the street to a building’s plumbing. Lead pipes were also used in inside the house but it is not as common as lead service lines. Congress banned use of lead pipes in 1986.
  • Leaded solder:  Solder is used to connect copper pipe and fittings. Congress banned the use of leaded solder in 1986.
  • Leaded alloys:  Brass is frequently used in faucets and other plumbing components. In 1986 Congress limited the amount of lead in brass to 8 percent (close to the level of lead typical of products at the time) and later in 2014 reduced the limit to a much lower level (0.25 percent).

Lead in Service Lines

Lead pipe with a scratch on it.Lead Service Line (LSL) means a water service line made of lead that connects the water main to the building inlet. LSLs are dull gray in color and very soft. If a LSL is scratched, the scratched area will turn a bright silver color (see the photo of scratched pipe from the American Water Works Association). To determine with certainty whether a water line is lead, a licensed plumber should be hired.

At one time, lead service lines were common in water systems. Because it is a workable metal that water does not corrode, it was ideal pipe to link the water main to a house. As the hazards of lead became known and as safer alternatives became available, water utilities shifted away from lead. The connections to private housing, however, were not the responsibility of the utility and rarely replaced.

At the time of the adoption of the Lead and Copper Rule in 1986, there were 10.2 million lead service lines (LSL) in this country.  There is no national database of all homes with LSL. Individual water utilities may have maps of LSL with their network but no one has a complete nationwide assessment, although the American Water Works Association (AWWA) has performed a survey on the number of LSL in use.

Public water systems deliver water to homes and businesses through underground pipes, which are under the jurisdiction of the utility. Once the service line branches off to service a private home or business, the pipe is no longer part of the utility.

Because each utility is subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), they must maintain these pipes to comply with these federal EPA standards, including requirements to keep lead levels below 15 ppb. This has meant that many utilities have replaced their lead pipes and service lines. However, the survey by AWWA indicates 6.1 million complete or partial LSLs remain in operation, serving 15 million to 22 million people. Thirty percent of community water systems have some LSLs in their system.

Many of these lines were found in the Northeast, with an equal number being found in the South. The majority of the 6 million LSL still in use are found in the Midwest. Areas with homes built prior to 1960 saw the greatest number of LSLs; the states of New York and New Jersey estimate to have 80 percent of homes on public water systems with LSLs.

Controlling Corrosion of Leaded Pipes, Components and LSLs

Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and plumbing. A number of factors are involved in the extent to which lead enters the water, including:

  • The chemistry of the water (acidity and alkalinity) and the types and amounts of minerals in the water.
  • The amount of lead the pipes contact.
  • The temperature of the water.
  • The amount of wear in the pipes.
  • How long the water stays in pipes.
  • The presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.

Understanding the corrosion control strategy used by a community’s water utility and the effectiveness of that strategy is important to planning for LSL replacement. Source water characteristics determine corrosion control practice. When corrosion control is not effectively reducing the release of lead, any LSL replacement should take into account the increased risk of lead being released.

Controlling corrosion is a priority for utilities. But corrosion control cannot completely eliminate the leaching of lead. Any home, including those with lead-free brass fixtures and solder may find lead in their drinking water. The following types of homes are more likely to have higher levels:

  • Older homes are more likely to have lead service lines and interior plumbing containing lead.
  • Homes with soft water, which has fewer dissolved minerals, and water that is more acidic and higher in dissolved oxygen can be more corrosive.

Private Ownership of Lead Service Lines

Private LSLs provide an even greater challenge. The lines from the water main to the home or business are not governed by the Lead and Copper Rule nor any federal law. The responsibility of maintenance or replacement is up to the owner of the property. Many older homes have a LSLs between the property line and the house.

Figure 2  | Typical Location of a Residential Water Service Line

Lead pipe plumbing diagram.

Source: U.S. EPAMassachusetts Water Resources Authority

The safest approach to fixing a LSL is to replace the entire line. Full LSL replacement involves elimination of lead pipe in the series of pipes and connections between a water main and the interior plumbing of the home. This includes the corporation stop, the gooseneck, and the service line. Partial replacement of service lines is not effective. Most of the older (pre-1986) brass components would need replacement, though some brass components might remain after replacement in some instances. If a home does have a LSL, it is likely to have other sources of lead in the water system as well.

Simple Steps to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

Whether the home has a LSL or not, plumbing fixtures like faucets, valves and solder can contain small amounts of lead. To reduce the amount of lead or any particulate in a home’s water system, homeowners can:

  • Run cold water from the faucets used for drinking water after long periods of non-use.
  • Purchase tested and certified ‘lead-free’ replacement plumbing parts. Fixtures that are NSF certified and meet the NSF/ANSI 61 and/or 372 standard will be free of lead.
  • If you use a home treatment device to reduce your exposure to lead, make sure it is independently certified for that use and properly maintained. Any device should meet the NSF/ANSI-53 standard.
  • Have your water tested. Many public water systems will test drinking water for residents upon request.
  • Be aware of any work that could disturb your lead service line, such as water main replacement, lead service line repair or replacement of part of the service line.
  • Run water before use if it has not been used for several hours. The amount of time to run the water will depend on whether the home has a lead service line or not.
  • Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula.
  • Purchase a water filter that is certified to remove "total lead."
  • On a regular basis clean and remove any debris from faucet aerators to clear out any particles of lead that may become trapped in the aerator.
  • Purchase lead-free faucets and plumbing components.
  • Remove the entire lead service line.

Source: American Water Works AssociationU.S. EPA

Also, see the American Water works Association's publication "Communicating About Lead Service Lines: A Guide for Water Systems Addressing Service Line Repair and Replacement."

Disclosure of Lead Service Lines

Not all utilities or communities know the extent of LSLs in their water system. Surveys of water utilities calculate 6.1 million partial or full LSLs, but there is no exact number. Certain systems have identified LSLs better than others. Several cities, including the Ohio cities of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, have tracked LSLs in their system and have online databases to let customers know where and the extent of these lines. The Cincinnati water utility provides for free lead-test kits for their customers, as do several other utilities.

The legislatures in 31 of the 50 states have enacted real estate disclosure requirements. Sellers must disclose several known issues or defects with a property to a potential buyer. Certain disclosures are required by law, others are recommended to be disclosed.

The federal government requires real estate agents to distribute an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” to all potential buyers, but does not require the disclosure of LSLs. Almost every other type of real estate disclosure mandate is required by state law.

Laws specifically requiring the disclosure of LSLs are rare, with the disclosure of lead pipes or lead plumbing only being required in Connecticut, Delaware and New York. Illinois and Wisconsin require disclosure of unsafe conditions or concentrations of lead pipes or plumbing. Several states require or recommend the disclosure of the type of pipe material, which could include lead pipes. Many states have a general disclosure requirement for any environmental hazards, which may include LSLs or lead pipe depending on if the owner has knowledge of the material (and deems it an environmental hazard). Sixteen states have limited or no relevant statutorily mandated disclosure requirements, including Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey and West Virginia – which have voluntary forms, but no mandatory ones.

Laws specifically requiring the disclosure of LSLs are rare, with it only being required in Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. Several states require or recommend the disclosure of the type of pipe material, which could include lead pipes. Many states have a general disclosure requirement for any environmental hazards, which may include LSLs or lead pipe depending on if the owner has knowledge of the material (and deems it an environmental hazard). Sixteen states have no or limited disclosure requirements.

Disclosure of Lead Service Lines

STATE

SUMMARY

California

California requires sellers to disclose to homebuyers any known environmental hazards, which includes contaminated water and lead-based paint but does not specify lead pipes or lead service lines. If the seller has knowledge of LSLs it may be considered an environmental hazard.

Connecticut

The state requires sellers to disclose if lead plumbing is present and for the seller to disclose the location of the plumbing.

Delaware

Sellers in the state must specify if there are any lead hazards, listing lead pipes as a hazard. Sellers also are required to specify the type of plumbing in the homes, whether it is lead or another substance.

Ilinois

Illinois statute requires sellers to disclose if they are aware of any unsafe conditions related to lead, including lead water pipes and lead plumbing pipes.

Indiana

Indiana requires sellers to disclose any known environmental hazards, mentioning lead paint as a hazard but not lead pipes or lead service lines. The condition of the plumbing also must be disclosed. A seller may consider an LSL an environmental hazard or not.

Michigan

Michigan requires sellers to disclose to potential buyers the type of plumbing materials but does not specifically mention lead or LSLs. The seller also must disclose any known problems with the plumbing system. Any environmental problems, such as lead-based paint, must be disclosed as well.

New York

New York requires sellers to disclose if lead plumbing is present and requires the seller to identify the location of such plumbing.

North Carolina

The state does require sellers to disclose to a potential buyer the type of plumbing materials in the house, but does not specify lead as a material. It does require the disclosure of hazardous materials, including lead-based paint.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires sellers to disclose to potential buyers the type of plumbing materials and identifies lead as a type. The seller must also disclose any known problems with the plumbing system.

South Carolina

The state requires disclosure of the conditions and characteristics of the plumbing, but does not specify the disclosure of LSLs or lead pipe. Lead-based paint and other hazardous or toxic materials must be disclosed.

Washington

Washington statute requires sellers to disclose substances that may be environmental concerns, specifying lead-based paint but lead pipes or service lines. The seller must also disclose any known defects with the water system.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin law requires sellers to disclose to buyers unsafe conditions relating to lead in the water supplies or plumbing system, which would presumably include LSL (although not specified.) Defects in the plumbing system or unsafe well water (which could be due to lead but is not specified) is also required, as is the type of plumbing materials (but does not specifically mention lead or LSLs.)

Cost for Replacing LSL

The cost of a service line replacement is very site-specific, but the overall cost nationwide is estimated at $30 billion. Actual cost of replacement reflects several factors including the length of the service line, the technique used to install the new service line, and the built environment where the service line is located. Trees, walls, driveways can quickly affect the cost of replacement, as can any costs in breaking a basement wall.

The city of Lansing, Mich., completed the removal of all LSLs in 2016. When the project began, replacement of a single line cost up to $9,000, but by the end of the project, the utility was able to bring that price down to $3,600 per line due to technological advances.

Funding the Replacement of Lead Service Lines
Utility Portion Customer Portion
  Average Range Unit Cost Average Range Unit Cost
WaterRF (2006) $1,261 $250 - $3,000 $52/Linear Foot $2,300 $600 - $4,000 $46/Linear Foot
AWWA (2005) $1,756 $800 - $3,200   $2,144 $450 - $10,000  

State Options

For states, there are several options to fund the replacement of lead service lines on private property.

State Drinking Water Revolving Funds

State Revolving Funds (SRF) are financial assistance programs set up by the state to help fund local water system projects.  These funds are established to help the local water systems to achieve the health protection objectives under the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) and the Clean Water Act and can include the replacement of LSLs. These state-run programs initially receive 80 percent of their funding from federal grants.  Under the SRF program, states may subsidize replacement costs, provide forgivable loans, or provide grants to private homeowners to replace their LSLs. New Jersey used SRFs to access $30 million for utilities to provide loans for property owners to replace LSLs. Virginia also used this approach to provide $2.5 million in forgivable loans for homeowners to replace lines.

Community Development Block Grant (HUD)

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development administers the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is a federal finance program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. The goal of CDBG is to ensure affordable housing and provide services to vulnerable communities, and not necessarily for the replacement of LSLs. However, a community may include the replacement of LSLs as part of the CDBG request.

Rate Increase: The water utility can charge the ratepayer for the cost of replacement. However, in many states utilities are limited or prohibited from charging for activities performed for a private interest, such as replacing LSLs to private homes. The states of Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin faced this situation. Indiana responded by enacting HB 1519 (2017 Sess.) allowing the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to approve proposals that fold the cost of LSL replacement into water rates. In Pennsylvania, HB 674 (2017 Sess.) allows municipal authorities to use public resources to replace or remediate private water and sewer laterals if the municipality determines the work “will benefit the public health, the public water system or the public sewer system,” which can include LSLs. In Wisconsin, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 48 to allow a municipality to choose whether to provide a grant or loan to replace a LSL, and request to raise water rates from the Public Utility Commission. Ratepayers also incurred part of the costs for the Lansing LSL replacement.

Dedicated State or Community Funds: The state of New York undertook this approach, through a $20 million appropriation to municipalities to pay for the removal of LSLs on private properties. The Legislature included conditions for use of the funds, but they are not loans or bonds that must be paid back to the state.

State Efforts to Replace LSLs
STATE ESTIMATED NUMBER OF LSLs SET GOAL ENABLE FUNDING REQUIRE INVENTORY MANDATE PRACTICES REQUIRE SELLER DISCLOSURE

California

65,000

Yes

 

Yes

 

Limited

Illinois

730,000

 

 

Yes

Yes

Good

Indiana

205557

 

Yes (Rates)

 

 

Limited

Michigan

460,000

Yes

 

 

 

Good

New York

360,000

 

Yes (Grants)

 

 

Very good

New Jersey

350,000

 

Yes (Grants)

 

 

Voluntary

Ohio

650,000

 

 

Yes

 

Limited

Pennsylvania

160,000

 

Yes (Rates)

 

 

Voluntary

Vermont

7,400

 

Yes (Grants)

 

 

None

Virginia

97,000

 

Yes (Grants)

 

 

None

Washington

1,000 to 8800

Yes

 

Yes

 

Limited

Wisconsin

240,000

 

Yes (Grants)

 

 

Good

           

States Setting a Goal of Full LSL Replacement

As noted, the complete replacement of LSLs is the best approach to eliminating lead in water. Several states have undertaken efforts to encourage homeowners and utilities to replace these lines.

California: Estimated 65,000 LSLs

In 2016, the California Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1398. This bill requires the state’s 7,500 public water systems to compile an inventory of known LSLs in its distribution system and provide a timeline for replacement of these lines to the State Water Resources Control Board. The goal is by July 2020 for public water systems to identify LSLs and provide a timeline for their replacement.

The law makes replacing known LSLs the highest priority and, by essentially presuming that a service line is lead unless known otherwise, also creates an incentive for these water systems to develop accurate inventories in the next three years. However, the program would not apply to the portion of the service line between the meter and the house which the agency refers to as the “customer side.”

Michigan: Estimated 460,000 LSLs

Governor Rick Snyder (R) announced in January 2016 that the state’s Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services are committed to carrying out recommendations from the Flint Water Task Force to address health concerns and water quality. The Task Force recommended the state “develop a model LSL replacement program and funding mechanisms for financing work on private property.”

The city of Flint has an estimated 29,000 LSLs. The state appropriated $25 million to remove 5,000 lines in 2016, with an expectation of removing the remaining lead pipe in the coming years. Efforts in Detroit and Grand Rapids have begun as well.

The most ambitious effort to replace lead services lines occurred in the city of Lansing, which completed a 12-year project to replace all the city’s 12,000 LSL in 2016. This effort began in 2004 upon the initiative of state Senator Virg Bernero (D), who has since become the city’s mayor. When the effort began the city spent $9,000 for each lead pipe it removed. By the end of the project that cost dropped to $3,600, taking only around four hours to replace per line. The levels of lead in water in Lansing homes dropped from 11.3 ppb in 2005 to 7.8 ppb 10 years later.

Washington: Estimated 7286 LSLs

In response to increased public concern about lead in drinking water, Governor Jay Inslee (D) issued a directive (Governor’s Directive on Lead 16-06) mandating the Department of Health (DoH) and state agencies to address the many sources of lead exposure and find ways to minimize this exposure. One part directs the DoH to identify all LSLs and lead components in the state by working with public water utilities. The governor set a goal of eliminating LSLs and other lead components, such as goosenecks, within 15 years. The agencies were tasked with developing policy and budgetary proposals to achieve this goal. The DoH was given two years to identify all LSLs and lead components.

In October 2016, DoH released its overall recommendations and undertook a comprehensive survey of all public water systems. It released a summary of its findings in May 2017. The summary, based on responses from 90 percent of the state’s service connections, identified 5 utilities with 916 LSLs and 15 with 6,370 lead goosenecks for a total of 7,286, which is far fewer than the 27,000 estimated by the AWWA in their 2016 survey. DoH is continuing to complete the inventory and develop programs to remove lead pipes in the state. 

States Enabling Communities to Fund LSL Replacement

Communities can access funding to replace LSLs through the state’s drinking water revolving loan program. These loans typically must be covered by rates paid by customers. Many states restrict the use of rate funds to replace LSLs on private property. States have adopted proactive policies to overcome this barrier by providing grants or forgivable loans or by allowing utilities to use rates paid by customers to replace LSLs on private property.

Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin passed legislation empowering communities to replace LSLs, using rates paid by consumers. New York appropriated state funds to municipalities to address LSLs. Vermont and Virginia used their state’s drinking water revolving fund to fund LSL replacement. They are among 12 states that have adopted administrative or legislative policies to support community LSL replacement.  These states have an estimated 3.3 million of the nation’s 6.1 million LSLs.

Indiana: Estimated 65,000 LSLs

In 2017, the Indiana General Assembly enacted HB 1519 to allow a public water utility to include customer lead service line replacements as an eligible infrastructure improvements charges for water and wastewater utilities. This provision gave regulated water and wastewater utilities the opportunity to charge their customer through rate fees for the cost of replacing lead service lines.

The new law requires a plan to be filed with the state Utility Regulatory Commission setting forth: (1) how the service line replacement will be completed in conjunction with ongoing infrastructure replacement; (2) the anticipated savings from replacing the customer-owned line simultaneously with the replacement of the utility’s mains; and (3) the utility’s proposed method for communicating with customers the availability of the program and for documenting their consent or lack of consent to participate.

New York: Estimated 360,000 LSLs

The 2017 appropriation for the Health and Mental Health Budget included a provision to grant funds to municipalities with a high number of children with elevated blood lead levels to replace lead service lines. This legislative initiative, spurred by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) request, required the state Department of Health to establish a LSL replacement grant program and provided $20 million in funding. The agency was required to allocate the funds equitably among the regions of the state and within a region.

Pennsylvania: Estimated 160,000 LSLs

For the state’s 2016 budget, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed and Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed House Bill 674, which includes Section 1719-E empowering municipal authorities to replace or remediate private water and sewer laterals if the municipality determines the work “will benefit the public health, the public water system or the public sewer system.”

The section defines a private water lateral to mean “a line on a property upon which a building or structure is located that connects to a public water system.” As noted above, these laterals are commonly known as service lines and when they contain lead pipe, they are lead service lines (LSLs).

The law allows municipalities to use public funds and municipal employees to replace these service lines as long as they first consider the availability of and competing demands on public funds, equipment, personnel and facilities. The law also makes clear that replacing a LSL does not make a municipality the owner of the private lateral or obligate it to perform other duties, although the municipality is given the option to do that if necessary.

While only municipalities can use this new authority, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission showed a willingness to allow private utilities to take similar action in 2017 regarding York Water Company. Recognizing the potential public health hazard of replacing only the utility-owned portion of a LSL and the problems associated with relying on property owners to replace their portion, the commission allowed the private utility to add the cost of replacing LSLs on private property into the rates it charges to all customers.

Vermont: Estimated 97,000 LSLs

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation used state revolving loan funds to establish a grant program to address LSLs. The agency provides individual grants ranging from $20,000 to $80,000 to aid utilities to:

  • Find, map, and inventory lead-containing water distribution and customer service lines.
  • Educate the public about the risks of exposure to lead in drinking water and how to reduce risks.
  • Develop LSL inventories.
  • Develop a plan to replace publicly and privately-owned lead lines.
Virginia: Estimated 97,000 LSLs

The Virginia Department of Health used state revolving loan funds to establish an LSL Replacement Rebate Program for full removal of LSLs. Under the program, the utility rebates property owners or authorized third parties the cost of replacing the LSL (or galvanized pipe) on the property owner’s side of the meter. The program is limited to $5,000 per service line and may include up to $500 as an administrative fee. The utility is given one year with an option for a one-year renewal under the program. Residences, apartments, daycares, private schools and other facilities where sensitive populations may be present are eligible for replacement. 

Wisconsin: Estimated 240,000 LSLs

The Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted a policy prohibiting any utility from using public funds to replace LSLs on private property, limiting any programs to replace private LSLs funded by water rates. Legislators in the state felt this was an unnecessary barrier inhibiting the replacement of LSLs, and introduced two bills seeking to remedy this barrier.

Senator Robert Cowles (R) introduced Senate Bill 48, which allows (but does not require) public water utilities to provide financial assistance for the replacement of LSL. (NCSL sponsored a webinar with the bill’s sponsors regarding financing options for replacing LSL.)

The Legislature enacted Senate Bill 48 in 2018. The law gives utilities and the PSC a framework for accelerating LSL replacement. The law allows municipalities and private utilities to provide financial assistance to property owners to replace water service lines that contain lead that they own. The law does not explicitly define ownership but treats the portion of the line on private property as owned by the property owner and refers to it as a “customer-side water service line.”

Additional Resources

  • American Water Works Association  – AWWA has information and resources available for water utilities and their customers regarding lead in water and the replacement of lead service lines.
  • CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program – the CDC tracks the number of children with elevated blood lead levels and provides resources to reduce or eliminate lead hazards in the home.
  • CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Data, Statistics, and Surveillance – this page discusses CDC’s efforts to identify children with elevated blood lead levels.
  • Environmental Defense Fund – EDF has several resources dedicated to lead poisoning and lead hazard control, including information on the replacement of LSLs.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – The EPA has several pages addressing lead in the environment, including ‘Use of Lead-Free Pipes, Fittings, Fixtures, Solder and Flux for Drinking Water’ to assist the public in understanding lead in water and plumbing pipes and fixtures.
  • Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative – the Collaborative is an effort of public health, water utilities, environmental, housing and consumer organizations to promote the voluntary replacement of LSLs in the U.S. The Collaborative produced several resources regarding LSL replacement, for community leaders, public health professionals, water utilities, elected officials and the concerned citizens.
  • NSF International  – NSF is a standards organization that provides testing and certification to ensure products meet health and safety standards. The set forth standards to ensure various products do not release or have excessive levels of lead into the water.