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Denver Water will propose the removal of lead service pipes from homes across the metro area — an action rarely seen in the United States and one that could cost roughly $500 million and take 15 years.
“Cost is not an issue. Public health is the issue,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said in an interview Monday morning.
The utility estimates that 50,000 to 90,000 homes still have lead pipes connecting their homes to water mains. The metal has been linked to developmental disabilities and other long-term health consequences, though Denver Water already has taken steps to minimize the risk.
“The water we’re delivering is safe. This is really a matter of the plumbing,” Lochhead said.
Lead from corroded pipes can enter the water as it goes into homes. Denver Water has for years adjusted the chemistry of its water to prevent lead from leaching from the residential pipes. In 2012, the utility’s ongoing testing detected lead in a few homes that exceeded federal limits.
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Since the 2015 water crisis in Flint, hundreds of places across the United States are becoming more proactive about replacing lead pipe lines.
In the U.S. up to 20% of a person’s exposure to lead can come from tap water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
An estimated 4 million U.S. households have children who are exposed to high levels of lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A big contributor to that risk is lead water service pipes which can leach into the water, according to the American Public Health Association.
Up to 10 million U.S. homes are served by lead service lines, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
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The Nation's Health
Wisconsin resident Tory Lowe got bad news following a medical exam of his 4-year-old son. Lowe’s family lives in a low-income neighborhood in North Milwaukee. Many homes have lead pipes that can contaminate drinking water.
As a precaution, the family drinks only bottled water and has a filter on the kitchen tap. But despite those steps, in 2017 doctors told Lowe that his son, Troy, had high levels of lead in his blood.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Lowe told The Nation’s Health. “We don’t have lead paint.”
It turned out that Troy had been drinking from the bathroom sink.
Though lead paint, dust and soil are the biggest risks for high blood lead levels in children, lead in water can have dangerous consequences as well. While the U.S. has some of the world’s safest public water supplies, in some cases, up to 20% of a person’s exposure to lead can come from tap water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Any level of lead in blood is unsafe in children, but the health risk multiplies when levels surpass 5 micrograms per deciliter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Troy Lowe’s case, his measurement was 6 micrograms per deciliter.
An estimated 4 million U.S. households have children who are exposed to high levels of lead. Lead exposure can cause fatigue, joint ache, constipation and memory loss, and is particularly dangerous for infants and children. Developmental problems involving learning, behavior, speech and hearing can result. When blood lead levels reach 45 micrograms per deciliter, CDC recommends that medical treatment be considered.
See the full article on Daily Press
ESCANABA — In an effort to keep up with paving projects and comply with new rules handed down by the state, the Escanaba City Council Thursday approved entering into contracts for water line replacements and discussed how to address residents who had already replaced their own lines.
In four separate motions, the council approved entering into contracts for the replacement of water lines deemed contaminated under new rules from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), formerly the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Under the rules, any service line connected to a main using a lead gooseneck or that was once connected by a lead gooseneck is considered contaminated, regardless of the amount of measurable lead present in the property’s water.
EGLE is further requiring cities to begin replacing lead service lines at a rate of 5 percent per year starting in 2021 and leaves the city responsible for all work and costs associated with line replacements up to the property’s water meter, which is typically located inside a basement.
See the full article on CBS Local
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The city is beating this year’s goals for removing lead and improving water quality.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) says since mid-March, it has already replaced over 700 public service lines that contain lead — setting the agency on track to replace over 3,700 more by June 2020.
Read the full opinion article on North Jersey.com
The crisis in Flint, Mich., made clear the health impacts of lead in drinking water, especially for infants, young children, and fetuses. Now water tests have found lead contamination in homes and schools across New Jersey. While the 1991 federal Lead and Copper Rule, which relies primarily on adjusting water chemistry to minimize the leaching of lead from old pipes into water, works most – but not all – of the time, it has failed to eliminate the biggest underlying source of lead in water: lead service lines.
These pipes, made of lead, deliver water to residences and smaller commercial buildings from the main under the street and serve as “lead straws.” There are an estimated 350,000 lead service lines in New Jersey, and until they are replaced, the problem of lead in water will not be resolved.
See the full article in WSPY News.
In a 6-0 vote, Montgomery trustees, at their meeting earlier this week, gave authorization for the signing of loan documents to offer lead line replacement to the roughly 105 homes in the community that have lead lines.
Montgomery Director of Finance Justin VanVooren explained that the loan agreement is through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for a 100 percent forgivable loan up to $1 million.
Montgomery's loan would be for $1.85 million, with remaining funds used from 2017 bonds. While considerably less than many other communities, Montgomery's replacement amount more than doubled from the original estimate.
See the full article from the South Pittsburgh Reporter
PWSA has nearly $2 million still available for free on-demand lead line replacements for moderate and low-income drinking water customers.
As part of the settlement of an enforcement action by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Authority has established a free lead line replacement program available to homeowners and tenants who meet certain income requirements.
Under the program, PWSA must use $1.8 million for private lead line replacements before November 2020. The funding is expected to replace 200 privately-owned lead lines throughout our drinking water service territory. If there is also a publicly-owned lead line serving the property, they will replace it at no additional cost. Once approved, customers meeting the income requirements can have their lead line replaced in a matter of one or two months.
PWSA has teamed up with Dollar Energy Fund, Inc. to run the program. Although they are currently reaching out to customers already enrolled in other income assistance programs, there are many households not eligible for utility discounts and government assistance programs that would still be eligible for this program.
See the full article from the Marquette Wire.
Gov. Tony Evers, who spoke at a Milwaukee Press Club event downtown Tuesday afternoon, denounced the rhetoric used by some Republican state legislators to discuss the Democratic governor’s lead water line proposals.
Evers recently proposed $40 million in the state budget to replace the state’s lead water lines. Alternatives to pipe replacement, such as drinking water filters, were expressed as a more attractive option by some Republican state lawmakers.
Lead water lines are most likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1986, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. When plumbing materials containing lead begin to corrode, lead can enter drinking water streams.
Women of reproductive age, children, infants and fetuses are most affected by consumption of lead drinking water. Lead can accumulate in the body and cause a variety of health complications, from nervous system damage to impaired formation and function of blood cells, according to the EPA.
Read the full article from Michigan Radio.
On April 25, 2014, the city of Flint switched its water source to the Flint River without properly treating it. That damaged thousands of lead and galvanized water pipes which the city is replacing.
In 2016, University of Michigan researchers developed an algorithm to determine the neighborhoods most likely to have lead pipes. The on-again, off-again use of the model has raised concerns about the efficiency of the city's pipe replacement program.
The records for more than a century's worth of water pipe installations at homes in Flint are incomplete and often unreliable, so the algorithm uses whatever data are available, including the parcels, the years homes were built, and any confirmed construction materials in neighboring homes.
U of M professor of marketing Eric Schwartz worked on the project. In an interview with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Doug Tribou, Schwartz said the machine-learning model helped the city get its work crews to areas where they would find a lot of lead pipes.
"Early on, we really looked at our success by saying, 'For every 100 homes that the city was going to with the intention of replacing [lead lines], how many of those homes really did need replacing?' And that number was around 80, 82%," he said. "We are trying to do better than just searching randomly across the city."
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