Approaches to Lead Service
Water utilities replace LSLs under a variety of circumstances. These activities may be planned or unplanned, and may be initiated by the utility, the homeowner, or as a result of an emergency.
To develop or advance a replacement effort, it is important to understand how service line replacements fit into a community’s overall infrastructure renewal programs and what opportunities exist.
There are a number of potential approaches to developing a full LSL replacement initiative:
Additionally, communities should consider the following activities for advancing LSL replacement efforts:
Water infrastructure renewal programs
It is more cost-effective to replace LSLs as the community replaces and rehabilitates its distribution system infrastructure rather than replacing LSLs independent of larger distribution system infrastructure projects. Such ongoing programs include replacing or rehabilitating existing water mains, hydrants, valves, valve pits, service connections and meters.
Routine activities of utilities and water service also can provide an opportunity to find and replace LSLs.
As these activities occur, they can support development of a sound inventory of where LSLs are located so future replacement can be planned and appropriate public health information provided to consumers. This might also catalyze an opportunity to educate the consumer and possibly coordinate an immediate replacement .
Utilities may dedicate a portion of their budget to target LSL replacement. Funding and rebate programs vary by utility. Regulators, including water boards, local governments, and utility commissions, generally need to approve programs.
Water utilities routinely replace and rehabilitate existing water mains. When working in a portion of the service area with LSLs, there is an opportunity to include full LSL removal/replacement in the planned replacement or rehabilitation of the main.
Water utilities can also be engaged in activities that engage the customer on multiple issues. For example, a system may be engaged in an active effort to:
Emergency repairs that find LSLs
Water mains, service lines, and valves can begin to leak and need to be repaired. In making repairs, field crews can discover an LSL. There is an opportunity to replace the entire service line if coordination with the customer (and occupants) is possible. Emergency repairs occur 365 days a year and at all hours; coordinating a full replacement can be challenging under some emergency repair conditions.
Source: Suez North America
Maintenance activities that find LSLs
Maintenance activities are a routine part of providing water service. Meters are replaced, curb stops fail and must be replaced, curb boxes are replaced, as well as other activities. Such field work can lead to the discovery of an LSL but do not typically involve the equipment needed to replace a service line. These activities can support developing a sound inventory of LSL locations and initiate coordination with customers to replace LSLs. With positive field confirmation of lead, there is an opportunity to pursue full replacement as part of the maintenance activity (if the activity can be delayed) or as a part of a more systematic long-term initiative.
Coordinating replacement with other work
Routine work also includes rehabilitation of wastewater infrastructure. Utilities can coordinate sewer lateral and LSL replacement. While often a different utility, gas service line replacement can also be coordinated with LSL replacement. However, these initiatives do not always occur in neighborhoods with LSLs, and coordination with other programs needs to be mutually beneficial, so coordination may not always be the practical alternative.
Work by other entities including other city services or road reconstruction can also provide an opportunity to advance individual LSL replacements. Approval of this type of coordinated effort is needed from water boards, local governments, and utility commissions.
Coordination in the field is important:
Field work, particularly work in the public right-of-way with its impact on traffic and work involving coordination with homeowners and their contractors, can lead to only part of an LSL being replaced for some period of time (hours, days, weeks, or longer).
In some instances a customer may want or need to replace an LSL on private property. In this case, they can coordinate with the water utility to achieve complete replacement of the LSL. Some utilities have processes to replace the portion in the public right of way when the customer replaces the portion on private property.
Learn about discouraging partial LSL replacement.