MWRA Approves Funding to Remove Lead Service Lines in Wilmington
The MWRA board this week approved $100 Million in funding to remove lead service lines in dozens of communities across Massachusetts.
-Liz Taurasi, originally published on March 23, 2016
WILMINGTON, MA – The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority is making $100 million available in interest-free loans to allow towns within its system to fully replace lead service lines, those lines that connect homes to the main in the street or household plumbing.
THE MWRA’s Board of Directors approved the program earlier this week for dozens of towns, including Wilmington, despite the town not having lead service lines.
Wilmington DPW Director Mike Woods told Wilmington Apple earlier this week that none of these lines exist in Wilmington and never have.
MWRA officials say they are in the process of updating a survey of community lead service lines which currently estimates there are as many as 28,000 – or 5.6 percent of the total 500,000 service lines – containing lead.
“I am proud that Massachusetts is taking proactive measures to ensure that residents have continued access to clean drinking water,” said Governor Charlie Baker in a statement issued Monday. “The loans being provided by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority will allow communities to take the steps necessary to modernize their drinking water infrastructure, and keep Massachusetts’ families safe and healthy.”
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito added that by making these loans available, municipal leaders will have the tools needed to ensure “healthy, clean drinking for individuals and families around the Commonwealth,” she said.
The investment will help cities and towns throughout the state proactively address aging lead pipes in their communities.
The MWRA estimates the average cost to fully replace a lead service is between $3,000 and $5,000. Based on that estimate, they say they believe the $100 million program should cover removal of all lead services in its service area. They also note that partial line replacements – only removing the portion in the street and leaving the rest on private property – won’t be eligible for the program due to research they say indicates there’s not much of a public health benefit from a partial replacement.
“The zero-interest loans awarded to municipalities by the MWRA will allow them the flexibility to create their own local programs to fully remove lead service lines from the water main all the way to the home, and will intern ensure individuals have access to safe, fresh, reliable drinking water,” said said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton, who also serves as chairman of MWRA’s Board of Directors in the same statement.
While the MWRA’s water is lead-free when it leaves its reservoirs, and local water mains don’t add lead to the water, lead can get into the water through these lead service lines, according to a statement on the agency’s website.
The statement continues:
The MWRA has an aggressive and effective program to address lead in customers’ homes which includes a stable and well-protected water supply and an effective corrosion control program begun in 1996. These efforts have resulted in the MWRA system, as a whole, being consistently below the Lead Action Level since 2004. However, some individual communities have exceeded the Lead Action Level and many homes still have lead service lines.
“This program will help ensure that all residents of MWRA communities will continue to have safe drinking water, regardless of their ZIP code or the age of their home,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
MWRA officials say the program was developed following the suggestion of the MWRA Advisory Board. The MWRA already provides financial assistance to communities within its service area to improve local water systems.
Under the proposal, each community would develop its own program, tailored to their local circumstances and spending would be determined by the level of interest by both communities and homeowners, and on any future regulatory requirements for lead service line replacement.
The funds will be paid back to MWRA by communities over 10 years at zero interest.