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April 2, 2019 – The Clinic is releasing a paper analyzing the authority of water utilities in thirteen key states to use ratepayer funds to pay for full lead service line (LSL) replacement. The paper, “Rates Could Fund Lead Pipe Replacement in Critical States,” is the product of a partnership between the Clinic and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Clinic Deputy Director Shaun Goho and Clinic student Marcello Saenz (JD ’19) researched and wrote the paper in collaboration with Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director at EDF. Our analysis concludes that there are no explicit legal barriers to using ratepayer funds for LSL replacement in these states.
LSLs—the pipes that connect the water main under a street to the plumbing in a building—are the largest source of lead in drinking water in those homes that have them (see diagram).
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Today, EDF and collaborators at Cornell published a new study that provides insight into how disclosure policies can impact potential home-buyer and renter behavior. This effort builds on a report EDF published in 2017 grading state housing disclosure policies according to their ability to help homebuyers make informed decisions about lead service lines (LSLs) before they sign a sales contract. LSLs are pipes that connect homes to the water mains under the street and are a major source of lead in drinking water. Four states — Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania — and Washington, DC scored an A-. Twenty-one states scored a D or F. The remaining 25 states scored a B or C.
Our analysis was based on a presumption that if potential homeowners are told that a home has an LSL, many would negotiate with the property owner for its removal, whether by having the seller replace it or building the cost into the mortgage to fund the buyer’s replacement. This was a reasonable presumption that underlies why sellers are required to disclose property defects and environmental hazards in many states.
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About one-third of more than 8,300 wells tested across the U.S. had groundwater with chemical characteristics that could cause lead, if present in plumbing, to leach into tap water at levels above the EPA Action Level, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Program. These characteristics are most common in groundwater in the East and Southeast.
Lead can dissolve into water if the water corrodes a lead-containing material such as lead pipes, lead solder, or brass fittings. The USGS study used measured chemical characteristics of groundwater from more than 8,300 wells tapping groundwater to estimate the potential solubility of lead for each sample. Groundwater with low pH, low alkalinity, and/or low phosphate concentrations had the greatest lead solubility potentials.
Nationwide, about 33% of untreated groundwater samples had the potential to dissolve 15 micrograms per liter or more of lead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Action Level for lead in treated water from public drinking water supplies, and 5% had the potential to dissolve 300 micrograms per liter or more of lead. The states with the greatest percentage of wells producing untreated groundwater with a high lead solubility potential (300 micrograms per liter or greater) were Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.
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NEWARK (CBSNewYork) – After years of controversy surrounding lead in the water, Newark is taking a big step toward making its drinking water safer for residents.
Sporting a hard hat and a golden shovel, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka broke ground on a water infrastructure modernization plan.
Baraka acknowledged it will be a long road to fix the systemic problem, but said it’s a start.
“Bittersweet for the city of Newark. Bittersweet in the sense that we still have to deal with lead service lines in our city, but we have been working hard to get to this point,” he said.
A result of the joint efforts of the state and city, Baraka says the $78 million raised will go toward replacing 15,000 city lead service lines. All of them are in residential neighborhoods with a long lead history.
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NORTH PROVIDENCE – The town continues to be a trailblazer when it comes to its lead pipe replacement program, with officials planning to spend another $355,376 in federal grant funds this year to replace another 100 or so connections.
Mayor Charles Lombardi said he’s proud that North Providence remains the only community in the state taking such an aggressive approach to lead pipe replacements, paying the fee while residents in other communities have to pay their own way.
North Providence completed about 70 connections last year, using $270,376 in Community Development Block Grant funds, leading to the town winning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Award last fall.
Most connections done last year were in the Centredale area, said Lombardi, with a few more in Marieville. That work on the eastern edge of town will continue this year, with available funds required to be used by Dec. 19.
$10 in benefits for every $1 invested – Minnesota estimates benefits of lead service line replacement
Environmental Defense Fund
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Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released a report estimating that investing $4 billion in virtually eliminating lead in drinking water over 20 years would provide societal benefits of more than $8 billion. The state agency only counted the societal benefits from avoiding the loss of IQ points due to children’s exposure to lead.
Replacing lead service lines (LSLs) – the lead pipes that connect a building’s plumbing to the water main under the street – yielded the greatest benefit with an investment of $0.228 to $0.365 billion yielding $2.118 to $4.235 billion in benefits. Replacing lead fixtures and solder had a lower, but still significant, return on the investment.
Based on this analysis, MDH recommended as high priority that the state conduct an inventory of LSLs and that LSLs be removed “at a measured pace” of 20 years. It also recommended undertaking as a medium priority an awareness campaign focused on the danger of lead in drinking water to formula-fed infants younger than nine months old and as a low priority a general public information campaign to prompt homeowners and renters to take action if they have an LSL.
Water Quality Products Magazine
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The report identifies and 2-for-1 return on investment in removing lead pipes and cleaning up drinking water
A new report by the Minnesota Health Department and the University of Minnesota found that while it would cost more than $4 billion to replace the state’s lead service lines, the investment would bring a return on investment. Ultimately, the report found that the large project would bring a 2-for-1 return on investment.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, this marks the first time health officials have put a price tag on removing the more than 100,000 lead service pipes that run through the state, as well as removing plumbing and fixtures in homes that contain lead. EPA studies from 2008 found that lead service lines contribute to roughly half of the lead contamination in drinking water from public systems.
"As we see in many other areas of public health, preventing a health problem is more cost effective than waiting for a health problem to develop and then treating it," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement.
WPRI Local News
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After once again finding elevated levels of lead in the drinking water at some homes and buildings, Providence Water is now offering three-year, 0% interest loans for homeowners and businesses to replace their private service lines.
Providence Water says its distribution system has no detectable levels of lead but some private service pipes and plumbing fixtures may contain lead, which can contaminate the water.
According to Providence Water, if a home or business owner replaces their private lead service line, they will automatically replace the public portion of the line at no cost.
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It would cost more than $4 billion to get the lead out of Minnesota's drinking water, but it could bring a 2-for-1 return on the investment.
That's the chief finding of a new report by the Minnesota Health Department in conjunction with the University of Minnesota.
It's the first time health officials have put a price tag on the two most expensive parts of the undertaking: removing 100,000 lead service pipes run into Minnesota homes decades ago, and removing plumbing and fixtures in homes that contain lead.
NBC News 12
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EAGLE RIVER - Nearly 80,000 homes and businesses in Milwaukee get their water through lead service lines.
Ingesting lead can lead to brain damage, especially in children.
But in the last few years, one Northwoods city has eliminated nearly all of its lead lines at no cost to property owners.
"To have any lead going into people's homes, where they're bathing in it, where they're drinking it, is not a good thing," said Eagle River Mayor Jeff Hyslop.
Hyslop says, a few years ago, more than 60 homes in the city still relied on lead lines. Leaders wanted to change that.
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