Norwich Public Utilities launches project to remove lead water pipes

Jan. 31—NORWICH — Anyone who owns an older home or building connected to the Norwich Public Utility water system is invited to a public forum Thursday to learn how the utility plans to identify and remove lead pipe connections.

NPU's "Get the Lead Out" campaign is being launched this week as part of a multi-year effort to remove an estimated 1,200 or more water service lines containing lead that run from the street to buildings, NPU officials said.

NPU will host an open house at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Rose City Senior Center, 8 Mahan Drive, to explain the upcoming survey of homes throughout the city to check for the presence of lead. The survey will guide a citywide removal project, funded solely through state and federal grants and NPU, with no cost to building owners.

At the open house, NPU staff, public health officials and representatives from NPU's consultant firm, Arcadis, will provide information and answer questions from the public.

Arcadis will conduct pipe surveys and in-home tests in at least 150 homes over the next three to four months. The data will help utility officials estimate the number of homes in Norwich with lead service lines.

NPU is aware of approximately 800 homes with lead service lines from the curb into the homes that will be eligible for replacement. Building owners own water lines that run from the curb into the buildings. NPU owns seven known lead service lines that run from the main line to the curb.

Once the survey is completed, NPU estimated there could be more than 1,200 lead pipe water service lines that need to be replaced, NPU officials said.

NPU estimated replacing all the lead service lines could cost $2.5 million. Grants from the state Department of Public Health will cover 30% of the cost, and federal grants are likely to cover an additional 45%. NPU will pay the final 25% of the costs, estimated at $625,000.

Larry Sullivan, NPU wastewater integrity manager, said the in-home tests take less than five minutes and are done using a swab on the inside of the fixture or water line at the water meter. He said Norwich has about 10,000 water service lines, and about 5,000 are "unknowns," on whether they contain lead.

"Education is huge component, and we need 150 homeowner volunteers to do the test," NPU spokesman Chris Riley said. "We're going based on our records and picking certain neighborhoods, going door to door leaving information behind."

Sullivan said NPU adds an anti-corrosion agent to its water supply at the water treatment pipes to reduce the chances of lead getting into the water.

In December 2022, the state Bond Commission awarded NPU a $600,000 grant to "jump start" lead service line replacements in 2023. NPU estimates that 50 to 60 service lines can be replaced this summer with this funding, with an initial target area of the urban neighborhoods of downtown Norwich and Greeneville. The two areas have the greatest concentration of residential homes and the shortest service lines from the curb to the building, NPU officials said.