If there were two words that strike fear into the hearts of parents, they would be “lead poisoning.” The fear of lead poisoning is of special concern for people who occupy housing built before 1978. Lead is dangerous because it’s toxic and the body stores it, much in the same way it stores calcium. While most exposures to lead come from painted surfaces inside a home, parents often wonder if lead in plumbing can be a source of lead poisoning.
The good news is that lead is no longer used in plumbing fixtures, plumbing components and solder – the metallic mixture that joins pipes together. But you can still find lead in water lines that bring fresh water from the City’s pipes to homes and businesses. In fact, Roxbury and Dorchester are among the areas with the highest concentrations of lead water lines still in service.
The Boston Water and Sewer Commission has no lead components in the City’s water lines, but some homes and businesses still have lead water lines in service. Therein lies the problem. Do the lead water lines contaminate clean drinking water? Lead mineralizes when it’s exposed to water, so the inside of a lead pipe develops a hard rock-like coating over time. Lead particles don’t penetrate the mineral shell. The evidence doesn’t suggest that lead water lines are a significant source of ongoing contamination, but that’s not a comforting thought to individuals and families who receive their water through lead lines.
Replacing a lead water line isn’t hard, but it can be expensive. Replacement usually involves excavating around the old lead, removing it and replacing it with copper or another safe material. Voluntary replacement of lead plumbing is always an option for a homeowner, but when a lead water line breaks from age, damage or cold weather, repair is off the table. Most plumbers today have never handled lead lines (except to remove them) and no longer have the tools or the experience to work with lead pipes safely. Replacement is the only route in this case.
BWSC offers a low-cost, leaking line replacement program for homeowners in its service area. Under the Leak-Up-To-Owner (LUTO) program, BWSC can replace a leaking water line (lead or not) for a reasonable cost, and much less than what it would cost to work with a private contractor. Under the program, homeowners can repay BWSC in 24 monthly installments as part of their regular water bill with 0% interest on the repair.
Eligible accounts are those that serve a 1-3 residence building, have a water line that is no bigger than 2 inches, are up-to-date on their water and sewer account balance, and agree to have BWSC complete the repair. The program is also limited to those properties where replacement does not present any extraordinary challenges, like the removal of fences, shrubs, walls or portions of the building.
If you have a lead water line that isn’t leaking, Boston Standard Company offers a free water analysis using AquaPure & 3M test kits. Based on the results of the analysis, we can help you identify contaminants in your water, and assist with setting up water filtration systems to remove them.
If you would like more information about the LUTO program, please visit the BWSC website. If you would like more information about the water quality and water filtration services Boston Standard can provide, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911 anytime to set up an appointment.
Photo Credit: Boston Standard Plumbing