Passero visits White House for summit on replacing lead water lines
Jan. 27—NEW LONDON — City officials were at the White House Friday for a summit on nationwide efforts to replace lead water lines.
Mayor Michael Passero and Director of Public Utilities Joe Lanzafame were in Washington, D.C. for the Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement summit hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Passero said the reason New London was chosen to attend along with at least a dozen other cities was because the city's public utilities department has been working on a replacement project for the past five years that is shovel ready and awaiting funding.
"We're ready to go," he said.
Connecticut is set to receive $150 million for the replacement of lead service lines from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, and New London is the first municipality in the state to have a replacement program in place.
The summit featured discussions with state and local officials, along with water utility, labor union, and nongovernmental partners, on reducing risks to public health posed by lead pipes.
At the summit, the EPA announced Connecticut is one of four states collaborating in a program called Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators. The program provides communities with technical assistance to address barriers and accelerate the identification and replacement of lead water lines. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin also are participating.
The state is also a part of a new partnership Vice President Harris announced Friday called the Biden-Harris "Get the Lead Out" Partnership. The members have committed to lead pipe replacement and ensure investments reach underserved communities.
The administration's goal is to advance and replace 100% of the nation's lead service lines in 10 years.
Passero said some towns like Newark, N.J., have already started replacing lead water lines after having found lead in the water supply.
He added that is not the case in New London but the city is proactively moving forward to prevent lead contamination.
Although lead paint and leaded dust and soil cause most of the lead poisoning cases in the country, especially among babies and young children, 20% of people's exposure to the highly toxic metal is through drinking water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
New London's water line replacement program will replace lead water lines with copper lines. The city's program is expected to last three years and be free for property owners.
Work to remove all the known lead service lines could start as soon as April if funding is secured.
Lanzafame, who has served as director since 2009, said the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority, initiated the preventative program after news broke about the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., in 2014.
Water in Flint became contaminated with lead and other contaminants after the city changed water supply sources which led to pipes corroding.
"After speaking with W&WPCA Chairman Barry Weiner, we agreed that the writing was on the wall after Flint, so we decided to get ahead of this," Lanzafame said in a release.
Historically lead can be found in pipes in homes built before 1986.
Earlier this month, Lanzafame said the city has predicted there are 2,450 lead service lines that will need replacing. There are a total of 6,500 service lines in the city.
The program is estimated to cost $36 million, according to the release. Lanzafame is requesting 80% in funding from state and federal agencies with the remainder coming from a low-interest loan.
Aside from the funding, Lanzafame said one of the biggest challenges was creating an inventory of the city's lead pipes, which his department did.
Once the project gets underway, the service lines will be replaced one neighborhood at a time. Residents will need to sign an agreement form to allow entry to their properties and be included in the project.
The form can be found at leadfreenewlondon.com and mailed or dropped at the New London Water & Sewer Department at 15 Masonic St.