NEW LONDON — The city is embarking on a $36 million project to replace lead service water pipes with new copper lines for about 3,300 residences.
“This is a proactive measure the city’s taking. We don’t have any lead violations or issues with our drinking water, or any consent orders or any requirements by the state or the federal government to remove these lines. We’re doing this proactively with the understanding that at some point in time, everyone’s going to be required to remove all of these lines anyway, so we wanted to get ahead of it,” public utilities Director Joe Lanzafame told CT Examiner on Friday.
While a number of municipalities are planning to replace their lead service pipes, New London appears to be first in the state to reach the construction phase, according to a state project priority list.
The three-phase project will be funded through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will provide three installments of approximately $5 million; and the state Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program, administered by the Department of Public Health, with a subsidy of up to 30 percent of the project. The remaining funds – about $9 million – will be paid for using monies from the city’s surcharge fund and a 20-year low-interest loan.
Lanzafame said the city will bond for the full amount – fully covered by federal, state and surcharge funding – but in amounts separated into three phases for three areas of the city that were based on median household income and the census tract.
Lanzafame said the city started an inventory of its lead service pipes about five years ago and has identified about 3,300 properties out of the 6,000 that have public water service.
The city is well ahead of the state Department of Health’s October 2024 deadline for municipalities to complete an inventory of lead service lines, he said. The state program is based on an federal Environmental Protection Agency initiative.
“The inventory is not due until October of 2024, so no one is late, we’re just early,” he said.
Lanzafame said the preferred and most cost-effective method of pipe replacement is known as “pulling pit,” in which the existing pipe is replaced simultaneously with the new copper pipe, which minimizes the amount of disturbance.
“The goal is to have the least amount of disturbance on the line because the lead line is better left undisturbed than it is replaced in part. You’re less likely to have lead release on a line if you replace the whole thing,” he said.
Lanzafame said the average cost to replace a residential water service line can range from $5,000 to over $15,000.
“Having an identified lead service line could pose a challenge when selling a home,” Lanzafame said. “But what I really want to stress is that this is a major home improvement for the property owner at no direct cost to them, and a major infrastructure project that can bring the entire city in compliance with EPA regulations.”
Residents will be asked to sign a waiver to allow the city to perform the work, and they have the right to refuse the pipe replacement, according to a news release. The work at each property is expected to last less than one day and property owners will be provided with bottled water while work is underway.
Lanzafame said the project has been put out to bid with a deadline of Sept. 27, and if the City Council approves the bond, work could begin mid-November.
An information session about the program is scheduled for Sept. 13 at 6 p.m at the Senior Citizens Center, 120 Broad St.