Quest for a lead-free Denver

What you need to know about the tools and programs to protect your family from lead service lines.

October 20, 2017 | By: Travis Thompson, Jamie Reddig

Lead is toxic.

For decades, the chemical Pb 82 on the periodic table has been outlawed from household paints, plumbing materials and gasoline.

These efforts have helped reduce lead exposure in America, but unfortunately, the residual affects linger in our communities, hidden in our homes and the environment.

Enter the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week campaign, an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of lead and reduce childhood exposure, led by the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An important effort that Denver Water works on all year long.

“Educating the community and ultimately getting all lead service lines out of Denver is a top priority for Denver Water,” said Steve Price, coordinator for Denver Water’s lead reduction program.

In 1986, Congress enacted the lead ban in the Safe Drinking Water Act, which mandated that any plumbing connected to a public drinking water system must be lead-free.

But a ban on lead-based plumbing doesn’t mean the potential for exposure has been eliminated. The Flint water crisis really brought lead-based plumbing materials to the forefront of the discussion, according to Price.

So, what is Denver Water doing?

Lead testing

Even though there is no lead in the water Denver Water supplies to our customers, Denver Water offers free lead tests and educational materials for customers.

Why? Because lead can still leach into water when it passes through a customer’s internal plumbing or lead service line — the pipe that brings water from Denver Water’s main in the street to your home.

“When it comes to water quality, we want all of our customers to be as proactive as possible so they can reduce their risk,” said Price. “Being aware of what lies beneath allows property owners to take the proper precautions and remove the problem altogether.”

Check out, “Anytime is a good time to test for lead in your water” for tips to check your home plumbing and reduce your risk.

Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Ruvalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.
Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Ruvalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.

Schools

With younger children at the greatest risk for health problems from lead poisoning, Denver and other metro-area school districts have taken a proactive approach to locating and removing lead plumbing and service lines in their schools.

And, Denver Water has been there to help, testing more than 9,000 water samples for Denver Public Schools (and counting), and thousands more for other metro area schools in 2017.

Construction

Between proactive pipe replacement projects and responding to emergency leaks, Denver Water pipe crews digging in the street have a unique opportunity to see customers’ buried service lines and identify the material.

And when we find it, we get it out. Denver Water has developed a lead replacement program, replacing about 2,000 lead service lines found during our construction work since.

We need you!

Replacing them only during the course of construction would take decades, and is a reactive approach at best.

“When talking about public health, we don’t have that kind of time,” said Price. “Ultimately, we want all lead lines out of Denver. But replacing them it is not cheap and can be daunting.”

To help, Denver Water has partnered with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority on a pilot program to make low- or no-interest financing available to homeowners who want to replace their lead service lines. (Read, “New loan program helps property owners get the lead out” to learn more about program and sign up today!)

“Bottom line: No amount of lead in water is safe, so no level of risk is acceptable,” said Price. “We’ll continue to put the tools and policies in place to help our customers with this issue. But, we can’t do it alone.”

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