Empowering and Educating our Communities: Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative

It’s no secret – the situations in Flint, Michigan and other cities have heightened awareness and sparked action about the challenges of our nation’s aging water infrastructure. Lead and other contaminants in Americans’ water have received quite a bit of attention over the past couple of years – with good reason. Nationwide, outdated lead service lines connect an estimated 6.1 million or more homes and businesses. Service lines are the pipes that connect the utilities’ underground system of water mains and pipes to a home, business or public-use facility, and are the responsibility of the home or business owner.

The members of the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) provide quality water service to more than 73 million customers and share a commitment to empowering Americans with information about ways they can help ensure the quality of their drinking water. Water management professionals across the nation realize the importance of educating their customers and clarifying who is responsible for replacing outdated lead service lines.

Many property owners are unaware that water utilities are not responsible for service lines that transport drinking water into homes and other structures. It is imperative that homeowners check their service lines and plumbing for any indication of lead in older homes built before the 1986 Lead Ban was enacted. While water service providers are eager to educate property owners and help them determine if they have lead service lines that need to be replaced, it is critical for property owners to recognize their role in the process and collaborate with their local utility.

Replacing lead service lines provides an opportunity to significantly reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water. Lead has many widely-known negative health implications, such as impairing normal brain development in infants and children, as well as contributing to learning and behavioral problems.

To negate these risks, NAWC is proud to be part of a diverse national coalition, the Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) Collaborative. The LSLR Collaborative is a joint effort of 23 organizations representing the public health, water utility, and environmental sectors working with state and local governments. The LSLR Collaborative aims to assist communities in recognizing the need to remove lead lines, as well as provide tools to support local action to do so.

This year, the Collaborative released an online toolkit to help communities voluntarily develop and implement lead service line removal programs. This toolkit helps utilities, public health officials, and local community leaders advance the full removal of lead pipes in their communities, by identifying tangible next steps for taking action.

The Collaborative’s toolkit includes a roadmap for getting started, suggested practices to identify and remove lead service lines in a safe, equitable, and cost-effective manner, policies that federal and state leaders could adopt to support local efforts, and links to additional resources that may be helpful when developing local programs. The toolkit is a viable resource that communities across the nation can use to pilot full lead service line removal.

Updating our nation’s water infrastructure is going to require an all-hands-on-deck approach from national, state and local community leaders, water utilities, and customers. At NAWC, we are pleased to see the diverse members of the Collaborative – spanning industries and sectors – working together toward a common goal. It will take a collective effort to make great strides toward solving our water infrastructure challenges.

For more information about the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, visit http://www.lslr-collaborative.org/.

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