May 2016, Vol. 71 No. 5


Water Leaders Discuss Lead Line Replacements

More than 100 water utility leaders from across shared strategies for removing the lead service lines connecting millions of older homes to water mains at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., May 3, 2016.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) hosted the event during Drinking Water Week, an annual observance that puts a spotlight on water quality and supply issues.

In March 2016, the AWWA published a study estimating some 6.1 million lead service lines remain in the U.S., serving approximately 7 percent of the country’s population. In many of these communities, portions of the lead service lines are owned by the water utilities, while other portions are owned by the customer.

AWWA also recently announced its support for the U.S. National Drinking Water Advisory Council’s recommendation to remove lead service lines throughout the U.S. over time.

“This issue is both complicated and solvable,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance.

During the gathering of utility leaders, John Sullivan, chief engineer for Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) explained that BWSC has an online database allowing homeowners to search by address to determine if their property has a lead service line. In addition, BWSC offers a credit of up to $2,000 and interest-free loans up to 48 months to assist homeowners willing to remove the portions of lead pipes on private property.

Cathy Bailey, director of the Greater Cincinnati Water Works said that the utility has expanded its outreach on lead to include the addition of a new lead website, a lead hotline, social media outreach, direct letter to more than 20,00 customers, a speaker’s bureau, and the distribution of pitcher filters to homes deemed higher risk.

Reid Campbell, director of water services for Halifax Water in Nova Scotia, Canada, explained to the group of utilities that education and financial assistance is critical in removing lead service lines, and many water patrons in his service area are reluctant to spend money on replacing lines buried and out of sight.

Randall Roost, principal planner of water operations for the Lansing, MI Board of Water and Light, noticed that his utility’s service area is in the unusual position of owning lead service lines in their entirety, allowing the utility to reduce the number of lead service lines from 13,500 down to 436 over the course of 12 years, noting that the project has cost approximately $42 million, financed entirely through customer rates.

At the end of this month, the AWWA will post video footage from the panel discussion, available at

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