If you own a home, you’ve probably replaced appliances, furniture, faucets and maybe a toilet or two.
But most people have likely never replaced their water service line — it’s the pipe that brings water into your home.
So when Denver Water notified more than 64,000 customers that the utility will be replacing their lead service lines, the announcement was greeted with many questions about how that’s going to happen.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up a Top 10 list of what to expect when your lead service line is going to be replaced. First, a little background.
Why is Denver Water replacing service lines?
The water Denver Water delivers to customers is lead-free, but lead can get into water if it passes through a lead service line.
Service lines are underground pipes that bring water from Denver Water’s water main in the street into your home or business. Customers own and are responsible for their service lines, much like they own and are responsible for their driveways.
Lead in drinking water can cause health problems in adults and children. Young children are especially vulnerable to lead-related developmental issues.
Watch this video for more information about how lead gets into water:
Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program aims to reduce the risk of lead in water by replacing the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines in the utility’s service area by 2035.
Because it will take time to replace all the lead lines, Denver Water has sent Brita Longlast pitchers and water filters to people living in homes that are in the program. The filters are certified to remove lead from drinking water.
If you received one, make sure you use filtered water for drinking, cooking, mixing beverages and preparing infant formula until six months after your lead service line is replaced.
If you have not yet received your pitcher and filters, call Denver Water at 303-893-2444.
Top 10 list
Here’s what to expect once you’ve been alerted that your service line is going to be replaced:
- A Denver Water representative or one of our contractors will inspect your home and meet with you to review the service line replacement process. The crews follow COVID-19 safety precautions during all in-person meetings, including social distancing and wearing face coverings. We also ask that home and property owners wear face coverings and maintain a minimum of 6 feet of separation when interacting with workers.
- Denver Water will replace your service line, from the house to the water main in the street, with a new lead-free copper pipe. This work is being done at no direct cost to the customer.
- Your water will be turned off for up to eight hours and crews will give you a heads-up before they turn off the water. Please plan accordingly.
- You and your family do not need to leave the home during the construction work. Your electricity will remain on the entire time. If you choose to leave, at least one person who is 18 years old or older must be on-site during the process.
- You’ll need to move vehicles from in front of your house from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make room for the work crews and their equipment.
- Workers will dig two holes to replace the service line. One hole will be dug in the street to reach the spot where your service line connects to the water main. The second hole will be dug around the water meter. The meter is usually located in your property’s public right of way, often near the street and sidewalk. Most replacements do not require digging a trench on the property. Both holes will be filled in after the work is done.
- Crews will try to limit disturbances to plants and landscaping, but there will be some impact. Workers will restore the property to a level surface after replacing the service line. A landscaping company will come back in a few weeks to do additional restoration work if needed.
- Crews may replace multiple lead service lines on the same street, so construction equipment could be on your block for a couple weeks.
- Immediately after construction, a temporary street repair patch will be placed to ensure the road is safe. A permanent repair will be made later.
- Crews will flush debris that got into the service line after the construction work. You will need to flush your faucets to flush debris out of your internal pipes. Our crews will give you instructions and we have information available on our website.
What happens during the replacement work?
There are two common techniques to replace a service line. The first uses a pull-through method and the second uses directional boring. Both methods avoid the need to dig a trench on the property to access the service line.
The pull-through method involves pulling the old service line out and pulling a new copper pipe through the same hole.
Directional boring involves drilling a new hole in the ground to run a new copper pipe from the water main in the street to your home. In this case, the old lead service line is disconnected and left in the ground.
What if I don’t see a lead pipe coming into my house?
Service lines in older homes often have multiple sections of pipe that may be made of different materials. This typically happens when repairs were made over the years by different contractors.
Lead, galvanized steel and copper are the most commonly used materials for older service lines in residential homes. Larger commercial properties may have service lines that contain lead, cast iron or ductile iron pipes.
If you are in Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program, our analysis indicates that at least one section of your service line is made of lead.
After the replacement process, your service line will only have two sections, separated by the meter. Both sections will be lead-free and made of copper.
Water meters are devices that measure the amount of water used. In some older homes, water meters are located inside the home. In most cases, the meter will be moved outside the house or business during the replacement process. This will make it easier for Denver Water to access the meter in the future, if needed.
Is my water safe to drink after construction?
After your lead service line has been replaced with a copper, lead-free line, customers should flush their pipes according to our instructions. We also ask you to continue using the water pitcher and filters provided by Denver Water for six months after construction as a precaution.
We’ll also send you a water sampling kit four months after replacement to see if there are any traces of lead left in your plumbing.
You can learn more about the Lead Reduction Program at denverwater.org/Lead or call our Customer Care team at 303-893-2444.