EDF Health

Selected tag(s): Lead Service Line

An environmental justice case study: how lead pipe replacement programs favor wealthier residents

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director and Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager 

Dr. Karen Baehler and her team at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy, with support from EDF, recently published a peer-reviewed case study highlighting the environmental justice issues that arise when water utilities require property owners to pay when they replace lead service lines (LSLs) that connect homes to the water main under the street. Our experience indicates that the vast majority of the 11,000+ water utilities in the U.S. engage in this practice. Based on the findings, these utilities need to reconsider their programs as they address the more than 9 million LSLs nationwide.  

The study found that Washington, DC residents in low-income neighborhoods between 2009-2018 were significantly less likely than those in wealthier neighborhoods to pay for a full LSL replacement and, therefore, had an increased risk of harm from lead exposure from a partial LSL replacement. 

The practice of requiring customers to pay for a full LSL replacement also raises civil rights concerns in cities like Washington, DC that have a history of racial segregation, redlining, and underinvestment in neighborhoods predominately comprised of people of color. If a utility that follows this practice also receives federal funding such as state revolving loan funds (SRFs), it may be violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While Washington, DC largely resolved the issue in 2019 by banning partial replacements and addressing “past partials” left in the ground, this scenario is replicated across the country.  Read More »

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Lead pipes are in the news – Here’s why that matters

Sam Lovell, Communications Manager. 

“How many of you know, when you send your child to school, the fountain they’re drinking out of is not fed by a lead pipe?”

That stark question was posed by President Biden in a briefing following the announcement of the American Jobs Plan. The President’s historic infrastructure package includes $45 billion to fully replace lead pipes across the country. This has caused a surge of attention nationally on the problem of lead pipes, as administration officials and members of Congress voice support of the plan and local media outlets report on the implications of the investment.

And this attention is well-placed: across the country, an estimated 9.2 million lead service lines still provide water to US homes – putting children at risk of lead exposure and permanent harm to their brain development. While this has been an issue for far too long, this recent momentum – with the inclusion of funding in the American Jobs Plan and in several bills moving in both the House of Representatives and the Senate – is a promising sign that action is near.

Read More »

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Lead pipe replacement in action: New case examples highlight innovative approaches to financing, outreach, and more

Sam Lovell, Project Manager.

See new case examples of state and local agencies, community groups, and other stakeholders tackling lead service line replacement challenges.

Across the country, over 9 million homes still get their water through a lead pipe, called a lead service line (LSL). Fully replacing LSLs poses a myriad of challenges – cost chief amongst them – but replacement is critical to protecting the public from the harms posed by lead exposure. It is also a necessary step to upgrading the country’s aging water infrastructure.

To assist water systems, elected officials, health professionals, and other key stakeholders with navigating these challenges to accelerating LSL replacement, the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative developed an online toolkit several years ago. EDF is a founding member of the Collaborative, which now has 27 members representing public health, water utility, environmental, labor, consumer, housing, and state and local governmental organizations. The toolkit includes everything from technical replacement information to recent LSL replacement news to equity considerations.

Now, the Collaborative is featuring case examples and interviews with states, water utilities, and advocates advancing LSL replacement with innovative strategies.

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Spotlighting advocates for environmental justice: LaTricea Adams with Black Millennials for Flint

LaTricea Adams credits her background as an educator with motivating and shaping her community advocacy work. For five years, Adams taught Spanish to middle and high school students in Nashville, Tennessee.

Now, she’s the Founder Chief Executive Officer and President of Black Millennials for Flint (BM4F) – a grassroots, environmental justice and civil rights organization with the purpose of bringing like-minded organizations together to collectively take action and advocate against the crisis of lead exposure specifically in African American and Latino communities throughout the nation.

Last month, we sat down (virtually) with Adams to learn about her experience advocating for environmental justice.

Read More »

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EPA’s three new service line notices: Critical to transparency and accelerating lead pipe replacement

Tom Neltner, J.D. is the Chemicals Policy Director

This is the second in a series of blogs evaluating various aspects of EPA’s December 2020 revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) and what they may mean for accelerating lead service line (LSL) replacements. The blogs cover: 1) new service line inventory; 2) three new LSL notices; 3) environmental justice implications; 4) communicating health effects of lead; 5) economic implications; and 6) sampling and trigger/action level.

Note that President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis directs agencies to review the former administration’s regulations and actions, including the Lead and Copper Rule. 

Three new notices required by the revised LCR from water systems to people with known or potential LSLs provide critical opportunities to build public support for LSL replacement by helping individuals better understand their situation and specific actions they should take. However, we recognize that, like all notices, many people may simply ignore them, especially if only delivered as an insert to a monthly or quarterly bill. We anticipate that notices will be most effective when coupled with broader outreach efforts and requirements that property owners share the notice with potential buyers and tenants.

As explained in a previous blog on the new service line inventories, water systems must assign all service lines to one of four categories. The rule treats three categories – “Lead,” “Galvanized Requiring Replacement,” and “Lead Status Unknown” – as known or potential service lines containing lead. People receiving water from a service line in any of these three categories must receive three new types of notices designed to prompt them to take steps to address the risk of lead in their drinking water pursuant to 40 CFR § 141.85(e) to (g). The three types of notices are:

  1. An annual notice;
  2. A notice of disturbance to service line; and
  3. A notice if trigger or action levels exceeded.

Read More »

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Clear communication about lead service line ownership is difficult – but here’s why it really matters

Sam Lovell, Project Manager.

Any successful initiative to replace lead service lines (LSLs) – the lead pipes connecting the water main under the street to homes – must be built on clear and consistent communications to residents. This will not only accelerate LSL replacement progress and equip people with information that impacts their health – it will also help build trust.

Many residents likely don’t even know what an LSL is, let alone that they need to take proactive steps if they want it fully replaced. In most communities, ownership of the water service line is split between the drinking water utility and the resident. Fully replacing an LSL entails removing the portions of lead pipe both on public and on private property. A partial replacement (when only one of the sides of an LSL is removed – see image below) is an issue because it can spike lead levels in the short-term and does not have the long-term benefit of reduced lead exposure seen with a full LSL replacement.

When describing LSLs and the replacement process, water systems must explain whether they are referring to the full LSL or only one of the sides, and the implications of this for the resident.

Read More »

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