Vermont begins process to find and remove lead lines from public drinking water – VTDigger

Lead service pipes. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency via the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

With $140 million of federal money on hand, state officials have begun a sweeping process to inventory and remove the main service lines that connect public drinking water systems to homes, businesses and other entities.

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation officials have asked people who use community water sources to keep an eye out for messages from water system professionals they may contact to schedule a water line check. Vermont must complete statewide inventory by October 2024.

If officials find lead pipes, the city water system will contact the homeowner or utility to guide them through available funding programs to help replace the pipe, said Bruce King, supervisor of the department’s sustainable infrastructure section.

It’s a quick inspection, King said. It only takes 5 to 10 minutes for the water system professional to come in, take a look at the pipe, determine what kind of material it’s made of, maybe take a picture, and then move on to the next house so they can meet this requirement.

When consumed, lead is associated with a wide range of adverse health effects, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In children, even low levels of lead can cause behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia. During pregnancies, it can impact the growth of the fetus and cause premature birth. In adults, it can cause cardiovascular, renal and reproductive problems.

The state’s effort also comes in response to new Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at reducing exposure to lead in drinking water.

Across the country, federal actions have helped lower blood lead levels in children, according to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to state governors. From 1976 to 1980, the average lead concentration was 15 micrograms per deciliter, but by 2013, the average concentration had dropped to 0.7 micrograms per deciliter.

The federal government allocated $140 million for Vermont from the 2021 Infrastructure Act to be used for lead line replacement over a five-year period.

The bipartisan infrastructure law is unique in that it allows water systems to use funds to replace both the utility-owned and customer-owned portion of the service line, which isn’t typical, King said. Usually, it’s just the user-owned part.

The state’s 70 largest public water systems are eligible for partially forgivable low-interest loans. The department is funding contractors for water systems that serve 1,000 or fewer people and is offering staff support for schools and childcare facilities.

King estimates that approximately 176,000 utility lines statewide will need to be inventoried.

Asked if the $140 million will cover all of the necessary replacements, King said he wasn’t sure because the state doesn’t yet know how many of those 176,000 lines contain lead. Communities are also eligible for funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which helped the City of Bennington replace its guidelines.

Of federal funds, 49% are required by federal law to be spent on marginalized communities.

We’re prioritizing schools that are in cities that are underserved communities first, to reach out to them to complete their inventories first, King said. However, we believe we will have enough time and sufficient funds to reach out to all Vermont communities. And we don’t think any community will fall behind with the care strategies that we have.

Officials can contact people who get their water from municipalities, homeowners associations, packaged house communities, schools, child care facilities, office buildings, factories, and other public water systems.

The inventory does not apply to those who have private wells or those who have non-community water systems, such as restaurants, hotels and fitness centers with separate water sources.

#Vermont #begins #process #find #remove #lead #lines #public #drinking #water #VTDigger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *