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by Mike Scott
Nobody wants lead in their water, but many people may have trace amounts in their home’s water.
The Environmental Protection Agency has passed a rule which mandates water providers, including cities and water districts, start the process of removing any lead from their water systems.
The first step required by the EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources is to perform a “Service Line Inventory.” Service lines connect a home or business to the water distribution system.
Providers have a little less than two years until the Oct. 16, 2024 deadline to complete the inventory.
There are several ways it can be accomplished, according the Dan Pinson from Missouri’s DNR.
“Providers should first search their records, if any, to see what connections were made. If they were made after 1989, there shouldn’t be any lead,” Pinson said.
Pinson added that local ordinance may have mandated the use of copper or plastic earlier than 1989.
“Most of Missouri stopped using lead in the 1920s and 30s,’ Pinson said, “But they went back to using it during World War II, since it wasn’t a strategic metal.”
Next, providers can work with homeowners and businesses to inspect the pipe in the basement of crawl space to see if it is lead, copper or plastic.
“Lead is pretty obvious,” said Pinson. “It will have a brass fitting and a lump that looks like a snake swallowed something. You can also try a scratch test, or a magnet, because a magnet will stick to galvanized pipe, but not to lead.”
After providers have discovered what they can find out through records and visual surveys, they may have to dig.
“The EPA wants us to look in three locations. Providers will have to check the meter, the water connection inside the house or business, and a location five feet either from the meter or from the inside connection of the house or business,” said Pinson. “They would do a pothole test, digging down to expose the service line.”
Once the inventory is completed, providers will enter the information into an online system. That won’t be the end, however.
“You’re not going to be finished until all the lead is out,” Pinson said. “At some point, that will be required.”
Some of those costs may be covered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, but only if both sides of the service line, the provider and the customer, need replacing.
“Of course, this could all change if there are other changes in the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements,” Pinson added.
For more information, visit https://dnr.mo.gov/water/business-industry-other-entities/technical-assistance-guidance/lead-service-lines