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EPA wants to accelerate lead pipe replacement in Connecticut, but timeline remains unclear

With lead levels in New Jersey's drinking water testing higher than Flint, Michigan, protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey in 2019. Newark, New Jersey.
Demonstrators marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, in 2019 to protest levels in lead that tested higher than those in Flint, Michigan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched an initiative to accelerate lead service line replacement in parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dedicated $15 billion in 2021 to replace lead pipes across America. But this move provides new technical assistance to communities to remove lead service lines and to access funding.

David Cash, the EPA’s regional administrator for New England and its ten federally recognized tribes, said Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven all have old water infrastructure – but don’t have resources to replace it. He said the EPA will work to find unmapped lead service lines in the state.

“We’re also going to look at things like blood lead levels in children, that’s an indicator that lead is a problem,” Cash said. “It comes from sources other than lead pipes, it comes from paint chips, it comes from lead in soil.”

Ten communities in Connecticut with the highest concentration of lead will be included in the initiative, Cash said, but there will be a process for identifying those areas.

The Biden administration wants to replace every lead service line in the next decade. But Cash said it takes time to figure out where the unmapped pipes are located.

“It’s not the easiest thing,” Cash said. “You don’t want to dig up all the streets at the same time.”

“There is no safe level of lead, and reducing all sources of exposure is critical,” Anne Hulick, Connecticut director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action said in an email. She said that “it is imperative that we do so urgently and equitably, focusing on our most vulnerable residents.”

Cash noted that the agency will start with 40 communities across the four chosen states.

“These will be pilot projects,” Cash said. “If these work really well, in getting the lead out faster, then weÆll spread them to other communities all over the country.”

Federal officials estimate there are 6 million to 10 million lead service lines throughout the country.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.
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