New loan program helps property owners get the lead out

Low-cost financing to replace service line pipes is part of an overall plan to reduce health risks from lead.

June 29, 2017 | By: Dana Strongin
A segment of a lead service line discovered and replaced during a Denver Water project.
A segment of a lead service line discovered and replaced during a Denver Water pipe replacement project.

Homeowners who want to replace lead service lines may be eligible for low- or no-interest financing under a pilot program created by Denver Water and Denver Urban Renewal Authority.

Denver Water established a revolving fund in 2017 for DURA to issue the loans, based on income. DURA then obtains bids and oversees the contractors’ work.

The program will serve as a trial for a potential wider-scale, longer-term program in the future, said Melissa Elliott, director of stakeholder relations at Denver Water. “We have to work together to encourage property owners to replace these lines. This is an investment in public health, and our hope is that providing a loan to customers will accelerate lead service line replacements.”

The dangers of lead exposure are well known. The best way to reduce the risk is to remove and replace the lead service lines with copper pipes. Service lines are owned by residents and run between their homes and Denver Water’s mains.

Breaking down financial barriers
The cost of replacing a lead service line can be challenging for many people — as much as several thousands of dollars.

Elliott said she hopes the loan program will make it easier.

“We’ve put tools and policies in place to help our customers meet the ultimate goal of removing all lead service lines,” said Elliott. “Our community will be safer in the long run with no lead service lines in the ground.”

Eligibility requirements include owning a single-family home or duplex in the City and County of Denver or a Total Service distributor. Interested customers can learn more online or by calling DURA at 303-534-3872.

Checking for lead
It’s not always easy to tell if a service line is made of lead. Denver Water does not have these records, because property owners own the lines. Here are the top two clues: If a home was built and water tap installed before 1951, the line may contain lead. Denver Water Customer Care, 303-893-2444, can help customers find this information.

In addition, Denver crews have been replacing customers’ lead service lines when they uncover them during regular construction work.

In 2016, Denver Water replaced 2,000 lead service lines with copper. That work continues this year during projects that include pipe replacement.

Water moving through a corroded pipe can pick up trace metals and minerals, including lead, attached on the inside.

corrosion control treatment pipes
Sections of lead service line pipe undergo different treatments as part of a corrosion control study at Marston Treatment Plant.

Denver Water is studying alternative processes to reduce water corrosivity at the treatment plants, before water reaches customers’ homes. With additional treatment, Denver Water may be able to significantly reduce how much lead leaches out of old plumbing systems in customers’ homes, said Ryan Walsh, senior water treatment engineer at Denver Water.

“We are carefully evaluating the data, unintended outcomes and costs of these water quality changes as we consider setting the direction for the future,” Walsh said.

Denver Water is working with its customers to replace each and every lead service line, but that work may take several decades, said Steve Price, water treatment engineering manager at Denver Water.

“That’s why we are putting into place multiple solutions to get these lines out,” he said. “We have an opportunity to make our community safer, to protect public health. We’re committed to making this work.”

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