The Clean Water Blog

Lead Service Line

Getting a Leg Up on Getting the Lead Out

Photo: Lead-lined iron water pipe and lead pipe removed from the Quincy, MA water system

A great new tool was released recently to help communities speed up replacing their remaining Lead Service Lines (LSLs), which deliver drinking water to millions of homes across the U.S. The Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative is working to accelerate full lead service line replacement by engaging community stakeholders in collaborative processes in this critical undertaking. The Collaborative’s work is based on the recognition that we need to get lead out of contact with drinking water to prevent the risk of exposure to lead at the tap.

I’m proud that Clean Water Action sits on the steering committee of this multi-stakeholder alliance working to solve a complicated, expensive, and critical health issue.

Lead in water is complicated. It's not (often) in the water itself but, rather, in the pipes or plumbing, where it can then seep into the water sitting in those pipes and fixtures. So there's no "central fix" for this contaminant, like for some others that our water systems can approach with one fell swoop at the treatment plant. While we can control lead leaching into water using chemistry and engineering approaches, in the end the best way to eliminate lead risk in water is to get that lead out.  The Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative’s online tools can be found at lslr-collaborative.org.

Right here at home in metro-Boston, Quincy is a community of over 90,000 residents which has taken a running start at amping up their ongoing efforts to replace lead in their community water system. As a water utility which distributes water provided by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), Quincy and the other 40+ MWRA-supplied communities have access to a first-in-the-nation scaled loan program solely for full replacement of LSLs. How did that happen? In the wake of the crisis in Flint, Michigan, MWRA staff got to work designing a $100,000,000 interest-free loan program for their member communities (Boston and 40+ more in eastern MA.)

Here is an article explaining that Quincy will be paying for the replacement of the whole lead service line, including the part that is technically owned by the homeowner, in hopes of becoming, “the only community in Massachusetts with a lead-free water system," according to Quincy’s Commissioner of Public Works, Daniel Raymondi. The article also includes a list of addresses and a map of homes with the remaining LSLs for which we applaud the water department in making easily available to all concerned residents.

The water department in Quincy says that they’ve gotten approval from 90% of the homeowners who’ve been identified with the remaining LSLs to go ahead with the work this year. The next step will be a public meeting for these homeowners about the upcoming work, and also to keep trying with the 10% “hold-outs” to get their approval to move forward, as well.

Becky Smith of Clean Water with Quincy Water & Sewer staff

Photo: Clean Water Action meets with City of Quincy Staff

Back row left to right – Mark Vialpando, Deirdre Hall, Dan Giannandrea, Peter Hoyt, Commissioner Daniel Raymondi

Front, Becky Smith, Paul Della Barba

Here at Clean Water Action, nationally and here in our Boston and New England offices, we hope to see more communities stepping up and taking full advantage of programs such as MWRA’s and leveraging any available resource to GET THE LEAD OUT of their water systems, too. Members and leaders of Massachusetts’ communities interested in using the tools of the collaborative and exploring resources to do so can contact Becky Smith in our Boston office.