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Cincinnati adopts an innovative plan to eliminate LSLs that is a model for other cities

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

The Cincinnati City Council enacted three ordinances in June 2017 that establish an innovative legal framework to replace the city’s 27,000 lead service lines (LSLs) over the next 15 years. The Council acted after finding that “high levels of lead in water create serious health risks to residents of the City, particularly young children, and using lead service lines between public water mains and properties increases the risk that the lead content of drinking water to the properties served will increase to a dangerous level” and that “replacing lead service lines is in the best interest of the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.” Although the City stopped allowing new LSLs in 1927, an estimated 1 in 9 service connections still have a portion made of lead pipe.

A member of the GCWW Repair Services Team replaces an LSL. Photo credit: GCWW

Cincinnati’s program is based on Madison, Wisconsin’s successful effort, which began in 2000 and was completed in 2011. Cincinnati is roughly three times larger than Madison in terms of population, service connections, and LSLs.

Under the program, residential property owners within Greater Cincinnati Water Works’ (GCWW) service area can receive between 40 and 50% off of the cost of replacing the portion of the LSL on their property up to $1,500 if they agree to have GCWW arrange for the replacement. Owners within the limits of the City of Cincinnati may choose to have the remaining cost assessed semiannually on their property tax bill and repaid over 5 or 10 years. Property assessments must be approved by the political entity where the property resides. As of today the assessment option is only available for the residential properties in the City. However, GCWW is reaching out to the other jurisdictions it serves to discuss expanding the assessment program to those jurisdictions as well.

GCWW will also be replacing the portion of the LSL on public property so that the entire service line is replaced. The City is committed to fund its share of the work from GCWW’s Capital Budget.

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Posted in Drinking Water, lead, States / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

Cincinnati and Ohio show leadership in identifying and disclosing lead service lines

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Transparency is an essential aspect of any successful program to reduce lead in drinking water. Knowing if you have a lead service line (LSL)—the pipe that connects the main under the street to the building—can help you decide whether to use a filter or replace the line. If you are looking for a home to rent or buy, the presence of a LSL can be a factor in your choice. Transparency can also help reassure consumers that their utility is aware of the problem and committed to protecting their health. The challenge for many water suppliers is that they often don’t have perfect information about the presence of LSLs. But incomplete information is not a reason for failing to disclose what is known, what is uncertain, and what is unknown.

In a February 29, 2016 letter to the states, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) asked states to increase transparency by posting on either the state's website or have it posted on local utilities' websites:

“the materials inventory that systems were required to complete under the [Lead and Copper Rule] including the locations of lead service lines [LSLs], together with any more updated inventory or map of lead service lines and lead plumbing in the system.”

In response to this letter and systemic issues brought to light about lead in drinking water in the village of Sebring, Ohio and Flint, Michigan, the State of Ohio enacted pragmatic legislation crafted by Governor John Kasich’s administration and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). Among its supporters was the Ohio Environmental Council. One provision in the law requires community water systems to

“identify and map areas of their system that are known or are likely to contain lead service lines and identify characteristics of buildings served by the system that may contain lead piping, solder, or fixtures . . .”

Utilities must submit the information to Ohio EPA as well as the departments of Health and of Job and Family Services by March 9, 2017 and update this information every five years.

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Posted in Drinking Water, lead, Regulation, States / Also tagged , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses