Testifying before the US House Subcommittee on Environment on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Stephen Estes-Smargiassi stressed that water professionals are committed to protecting families from lead exposure through proper corrosion control while working for a future when all lead service lines are replaced. Estes-Smargiassi, who serves as Director of Planning and Sustainability for Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) , told the subcommittee that AWWA supports recommendations from the National Drinking Water Advisory Council for improvements to the existing Lead and Copper Rule.
The NDWAC advised that utilities should conduct additional monitoring to better manage corrosion control, expand outreach on lead, analyze customer samples upon request and locate and replace all lead service lines completely, sharing responsibility with customers, building owners, public health officials, government and others. “As a community of professionals, water systems are committing to developing effective programs to alert our customers if they have lead services, to communicate the risks associated with those lead services, and to work with them to replace them,” Estes-Smargiassi said in his testimony.
Estes-Smargiassi testified that lead does not come from the treatment plant or water main; it comes from lead service lines running between the water main in the street and the home and from plumbing inside the home. His testimony describes in detail MWRA’s success at dramatically reducing lead levels at customer taps through a proper corrosion control program. “MWRA’s experience is not unique,” he testified. “Most water systems across the country can claim similar results from their effectively implemented and operated corrosion control treatment. It is this record of success with corrosion control which prompted the National Drinking Water Advisory Council to recommend that the Lead and Copper Rule remain a treatment technique rule, and that requirements and guidance for corrosion control treatment be strengthened.”
A recently published AWWA study showed an estimated 6.1 million lead service lines remain in communities across the United States, a reduction of about 40 percent over the past 25 years. “While lead solder and brass fittings and fixtures in the premise plumbing can contribute lead to stagnant water, in a home with a lead service line, the substantial mass of lead in contact with water is that service line,” Estes-Smargiassi testified. Estes-Smargiassi also described MWRA’s extensive outreach and a direct-to-customer, zero-interest loan program to assist property owners in lead service line replacements. MWRA encompasses more than 60 communities with a collective population of approximately 2.5 million.
Among the Congressional actions being advocated by AWWA members are support for HR 4470, which would strengthen public education requirements in high-risk communities and S 2579, which includes both public notification provisions and funding to assist communities facing lead problems. In addition to lead, water community professionals discussed the country’s aging infrastructure—which is itself a looming $1 trillion crisis—and financial strategies for rehabilitating the US water systems without unduly burdening local ratepayers or the federal government.