The problem: toxic lead pipes
There are an estimated 6-10 million lead service lines across the United States, spread out among 11,000 communities. All of these lead pipes pose a threat to drinking water until they are removed. Lead in drinking water, unlike many other water contamination issues, has a relatively straightforward solution: remove and replace lead service lines, where they exist, from the water main to a home or residential building.
While some larger cities across the United States have successful programs to replace lead service lines, many other municipalities and water systems - especially smaller ones - have not even started to address this threat. Some of these smaller municipalities and water systems may face steep challenges: They may lack specialized personnel, staff capacity, or financing expertise to figure out where their pipes are, how to get started, how to secure funding, and how to initiate a replacement program that is equitable for all residents.
The solution: replace lead service lines
We know that eliminating lead pipes will significantly reduce the problem of lead contamination in drinking water. To eliminate 100 percent of lead service lines, we need to replace the full lead service line, which means both the public service line from the water main to the curb and the private service line from the curb to the home or building.
While many homeowners and landlords cannot afford to replace their private lead service line on their own, some municipalities have used grant or loan funding to replace the full service line.
We know that achieving full lead service line replacement in every municipality and water system is not only possible, but will ultimately result in greater health equity and clean water for all. So, the question is... how do we make this happen?
EPIC'S RESPONSE TO TOXIC LEAD PIPES:
Lead-Free Water Challenge
EPIC has launched a Lead-Free Water Challenge to help small municipalities interested in replacing lead service lines launch programs by offering technical assistance, connections to resources and funders, and information-sharing through peer networks. After an application and interview process, the following municipalities were selected to participate in this challenge: Chelsea, Massachusetts; Newburgh, NY; Highland Park, Michigan; Hazel Crest, Illinois; and Fairmont, Minnesota. Our announcement can be found here.
Lead-Free Water Municipal Peer Network
We heard overwhelmingly from municipalities that creating a community of practice, or a peer network, was of interest as these utilities undertake lead service line replacement and in anticipation of changing federal regulations on lead in drinking water. As a result, we are excited to launch a peer network of smaller municipalities interested in sharing information, best practices, and lessons learned on lead service line replacement and on the implementation of federal regulations. All municipalities who are interested in joining this peer network should fill out this brief form.
Links & resources
EPIC Webinar on Faster Ways to Replace Lead Pipes - A roundtable discussion on July 8, 2021 on public-private partnerships, impact bonds, and innovative strategies to finance lead service line replacement with Tee Thomas from Quantified Ventures, Sean Agid from Corvias, Eric Glass from AllianceBernstein, and Dr. Sanjiv Sinha from ECT.
EPIC Webinar on Lead Service Line Replacement - A webinar on April 15, 2021 with municipal leaders, advocates and other experts to share lessons learned and best practices on lead service line replacement.
Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative - EPIC is proud to be a member of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, whose goal is to accelerate voluntary lead service line replacement in communities across the United States. The Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative website is full of useful information, links, and resources to help communities.
EPA Lead Service Line Replacement - The US EPA's main website with information on funding and other resources.
A local champion, In his own words
Successful lead service line replacement often relies on local champions like Mayor Charles Lombardi in the Town of North Providence, Rhode Island. Mayor Lombardi saw lead in drinking water as a real threat to town residents. To respond to this threat, he launched a lead service line replacement program from scratch, going after the necessary funding and identifying key partners to help him, like Providence Water. Watch this video to hear more about Mayor Lombardi's work.
EPIC's work on lead in drinking water
EPIC's report, H2Equity: Rebuilding a Fair System of Water Services for America
EPIC's analysis of the Biden-Harris infrastructure plan, Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Embraces Old and New Solutions for Clean Water and Prioritizing lead service line replacement with the American Rescue Plan
EPIC's analysis of the revised Lead and Copper Rule, Progress – but too little – on toxic lead water pipes and Implement and Amend the Lead and Copper Rule
EPIC's recent blogs on lead in small municipalities, How small cities are tackling lead service line replacement and How are small municipalities tackling the lead service line dilemma
EPIC's blog on lead testing in California schools, Results from California’s lead testing in schools emphasize the need for more comprehensive lead removal policies
EPIC's blog, Digging into lead service line mapping and inventories
EPIC's blog, A temporary solution: personal filtration systems
Social media sharing
Please use the social media hashtags #leadfreewater and #leadfreecities to spread the word on this program - and please tag EPIC while you're at it!
Thank you to our sponsors and partners
Content and outgoing links updated in July 2021.