For Immediate Release: Five Municipalities Selected for Nationwide Lead Pipe Replacement Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 12, 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: Maureen Cunningham, Environmental Policy Innovation Center, maureen@policyinnovation.org, 518-469-4748

Washington, DC - The Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) selected five municipalities to participate in a Lead-Free Water Challenge with the goal of helping them replace all of their lead pipes. 

These municipalities will receive technical assistance, connections to resources and funders, policy guidance, and information-sharing through peer networks.

The five municipalities selected to participate are: 

  • City of Newburgh, NY
  • City of Highland Park, MI
  • City of Chelsea, MA
  • Village of Hazel Crest, IL
  • City of Fairmont, MN 

“No one should have to live with the threat of lead in their drinking water, and our goal is to ensure that lead pipes in municipalities across the country become a thing of the past,” said Maureen Cunningham, Deputy Director of Water at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC). “The Environmental Policy Innovation Center is thrilled to work with these five municipalities on their path of replacing all of their lead service lines and having lead-free water for all residents.” 

Approximately 11,000 communities across the country have lead service lines, which were largely installed a century ago. Many of them face steep challenges to know how to get started, where their pipes are, how to secure funding, and how to initiate a replacement program that is equitable for all residents. Municipalities from seven states applied for the Lead-Free Water Challenge, and the following five municipalities were selected:

  • Newburgh in the Hudson Valley region of New York has an unknown number of lead service lines. The city has begun to remove their lead lines through state funding, but requires assistance in identifying how many and where the remaining lines are and obtaining the necessary funding to replace them. 

“The City of Newburgh's partnership with the Environmental Policy Innovation Center is a great step in the right direction towards a lead-free water distribution system. Our commitment to our customers for highest drinking water quality is and always will be our top priority,” said Wayne Vradenburgh, City of Newburgh Water Superintendent.

  • Highland Park in Michigan, part of Metro Detroit, has replaced roughly 200 lines to date out of 2600 service connections, many of which are suspected to be lead. Though the city has begun an inventory to comply with Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule, its biggest needs are funding, educational materials, and public outreach.

“Eliminating lead in drinking water improves the quality of life for the residents of Highland Park and will make water affordable. However, given the age of the infrastructure, a strategy needs to be implemented. The City of Highland Park is excited to work with the Environmental Policy Innovation Center to develop strategies to achieve our goal of becoming lead-free,“ said Damon L. Garrett, P.E., Highland Park Water Department Director. 

  • Chelsea, Massachusetts is a dense suburb of Boston that has to date replaced 170 lines out of 5000 service connections, with an estimated 100 lead lines or more remaining. The biggest needs for the city include managing the data they have, building a broad base of support, and securing the funds to replace the remaining lead lines.

"The City of Chelsea is grateful for the opportunity to work with EPIC and their partners as part of the Lead-Free Water Challenge. The technical knowledge that the group brings will aid in the City of Chelsea's mission to remove all lead service lines from the main to the meter. Over half the battle of this mission is identifying locations not easily found from record drawings throughout the years; the city will benefit tremendously from this outside insight and technical expertise" said Rebecca Wright, the City of Chelsea Assistant City Engineer.

  • Hazel Crest, Illinois is an outlying suburb of Chicago in Cook County. The village does have an inventory of its lead lines. Roughly 1105 service lines are assumed and/or likely lead, which will cost approximately $8.8 to 11 million to replace. The city requests help in developing a financing strategy, managing data and information, and building a broad base of support.

“The Village of Hazel Crest is excited to be part of Environmental Policy Innovation Center’s Lead-Free Water Challenge. Village President Vernard L. Alsberry and our Board of Trustees understands that the identification and removal of lead service lines throughout the Village is a priority. EPIC’s Lead-Free Water Challenge moves our community closer to that goal,” said Dante Sawyer, Hazel Crest Village Manager.

  • Fairmont, Minnesota is predominantly a retirement community with an unknown number of lead lines. The city’s biggest needs are developing an inventory to understand how many and where their lead lines are and accessing funding.

“The City of Fairmont Minnesota is pleased with the opportunity to work with the Environmental Policy Innovation Center to formalize our Lead Line Replacement Program. While we have worked informally for several years to replace lead service lines when discovered, we recognize the importance of a proactive approach to addressing our aging infrastructure,” said Doug Rainforth, City of Fairmont Water & Wastewater Superintendent.

EPIC has teamed up with Blue Conduit, WaterPIO, Center for Geospatial Solutions,  and other partners to deliver technical assistance to these five municipalities. EPIC’s Lead-Free Water Challenge is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Spring Point Partners.

"An actionable inventory is a key step to replacing lead service lines,” said Ian Robinson, Managing Director at BlueConduit. “We are excited to support communities in this program to assist them in getting the lead out of the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible. Lead service lines are present in communities of all sizes, and we are looking forward to helping communities to locate their lead service lines."

“At WaterPIO, our mission is to help water utilities and local governments of all sizes improve their public communications, so their communities will understand how hard they work to deliver safe, clean water. EPIC’s effort clearly connects with our mission, and we are proud to have been asked to support their important work,” said Mike McGill, President of WaterPIO.

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About Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC): The Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to build policies that deliver spectacular improvements in the speed and scale of conservation and environmental progress. In our water work, we focus on innovative policies that improve health, access, and affordability; eliminate disparities across water systems; and build public trust in water supplies. EPIC is a member of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, a joint effort of national public health, water utility, environmental, labor, consumer, housing, and state and local governmental organizations to accelerate full removal of the lead pipes providing drinking water to millions of American homes. www.policyinnovation.org

About BlueConduit: BlueConduit is a water analytics company that uses cutting-edge, predictive machine learning methods to locate lead service lines, empowering local officials with the information to efficiently remove those pipes. Our models enable utilities to focus their resources on digging where the lead is and accelerating the removal of this significant health concern and save millions of dollars in avoided digs. BlueConduit has inventoried more than 500,000 service lines across more than 50 cities in the United States and Canada. Those service lines provide water to more than 1,000,000 residents. www.blueconduit.com

About WaterPIO: Founded in 2016, WaterPIO provides award-winning customer, media, and crisis communication services to water utilities and engineering firms all over the country.  Lead and Copper Rule communications are a core business and WaterPIO’s team of experts puts more than eight decades of industry and newsroom experience to work for our clients.  For more information, visit www.waterpio.com or follow the firm on Twitter, @WaterPIO.