Grant aims to get the lead out

BENNINGTON — Engineers working for the town will set out to find service lines that are made of or contain lead.

The new effort aims to identify the location of lead service lines and to find a way, without excavating, to locate lead service lines inside the town's municipal water system, according to Jason Dolmetsch with MSK Engineering.

Dolmetsch told Select Board members Monday night that the scope of work, in addition to mapping the water distribution system, is to develop a protocol for lead sampling, a lead service line replacement program, funding strategies for service line replacing, and a public outreach program.

The overall project is expected to run through August. The benchmark project should be completed by March.

The next steps would be to talk about funding strategies for customers who own a service line: Dolmetsch said the general cost for a homeowner to replace a service line — from where the curb ends — is about $7,000.

The town received $80,000 for the new effort and subsequently contracted with MSK. The "lead reduction strategies" grant was awarded last April. Springfield was awarded $45,000 in June. The money came from the state Drinking Water Capacity Development Program, which dolled out money from the federal government.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that the level of lead that require action is 0.015 milligrams per liter, or 15 parts per billion. Still, the EPA says that given the "best available science," there is no safe level for exposure to the heavy metal that is toxic to the nervous systems and organs of humans and animals.

Town Manager Stuart Hurd said regular testing has showed the town's municipal water is below the action level.

Water in the town's municipal system is treated to coat the interior of the lines, in order to prevent lead and copper from leaching into the water.

The federal EPA in 1978 banned lead service lines — which carries water from the street to the home — and lead in plumbing solder in 1986. Homes constructed before those dates can be affected.

Lead free fixtures weren't required in Vermont until 2012, Dolmetsch said. "Many brass fittings in houses and particularly older homes can contain lead."

Of the town water system's approximately 3,600 individual service connections, up to 1,900 units may have a full or partial lead service line, Dolmetsch said. Some 1,779 connections were built after the lead service line ban. There are 902 connections where the town has already fully or partially replaced a service line. There are 28 known sites with a customer or town-owned lead service lines. And for 958 connections, the service line's material type is unknown.

Engineers have looked at where the highest potential of service lines made of lead or unknown materials are, Dolmetsch said. In the next two months, those areas will be plugged into a GIS system for the town to manage.

Project workers will be reaching out to customers who (1) Own a home with a service line made of lead or an unknown material, (2) may have copper line with lead solder, or (3) have a home that likely has plumbing fixtures that contain lead.

That will help engineers complete "benchmark sampling, where we'll be able to trace lead levels inside the unit and tie them to a service line, lead solder or leaded fixtures," he said.

Dolmetsh said he doesn't think all 1,900 units will be studied due to time constrains. But the goal is to do as many units as possible, he said.

Ed Damon can be reached at, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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