Des Moines Water Works Pilots Program to Replace Lead Service Lines

Leaking Pipe

Photo: Heri Mardinal / iStock / Getty Images

(Des Moines, IA) -- The Des Moines Water Works is starting a pilot program to help replace some old residential lead water service lines in the city.

Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Ted Corrigan says a federal Environmental Protection Agency rule put in place in the early 1990s attempted to reduce the likelihood that drinking water would cause corrosion in lead pipes.

"Ever since the issues in Flint, Michigan, there's been sort of a different perspective on lead service lines," Corrigan says, "the perspective now is those service lines should just be replaced."

Corrigan estimates that about 20,000 properties in Des Moines still have the older lead pipes, which went out of favor around 1940, though lead solder was used in some installations before 1985. This new pilot program would replace those lines at a select number of homes in the River Bend neighborhood, north of downtown.

"It's just one hundred lines we're trying to replace in Des Moines this year, to learn what the hurdles are going to be, what the challenges are going to be, and what the best approaches are going to be removing the lead service lines here," Corrigan said. He also says the Water Works regularly tests the water in homes, but does not find any lead.

The program is meant to be proactive. Customers who have concerns about any possible lead contamination can get their water tested by contacting the Water Works at (515) 283-8700. According to their H2O Line September newsletter, an $18 testing fee may apply under some circumstances, though eligible residents may qualify for a free test.

Des Moines residents can also search to see if their property potentially has a lead water service line on the Des Moines Water Works website. It's worth noting that some service lines have already been replaced by property owners due to age and disrepair.

Currently, the Water Works is seeking additional federal funds to facilitate more replacements, a process that may take anywhere from ten to twenty years to complete. Corrigan says a new procedure can replace an entire water service line in just one day, with digging only two holes for access; one in the yard and one in the street.

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