Chemical in firefighting foam found in suburban Denver water

 

While Colorado continues to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Denver Water continues to take on a challenge they have addressed for over 70 years: lead in drinking water. 

The Lead Reduction Program, which was approved in December 2019 by the Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is aiming to address the nearly 64,000-84,000 properties that may have lead service lines in its system. 

“The water that we provide to homes and businesses is lead-free, but lead can get into the water as it moves through lead-containing household fixtures, plumbing and water service lines — the pipe that brings water into the home from the main in the street — that are owned by the customer,” the Denver Water website explains. 

The program has five primary components: increasing the pH level of water to reduce the risk of lead and other metals entering drinking water from service lines or household plumbing, developing and maintaining a publicly accessible inventory of all customer-owned lead service lines in Denver Water’s service area, replacing all lead service lines with copper lines at no direct customer charge, providing free water pitchers with filters and replacement filters to all customers suspected of having lead service lines until six months after their line is replaced and continuing communication, outreach and education programs. 

“Delivering safe drinking water is Denver Water’s most important responsibility,” said Denver Water CEO and Manager Jim Lochhead in a Denver Water Tap article. “Nothing is more important than protecting the health of our customers, especially children.”

Replacing the lines will take Denver Water 15 years to complete, and while the exact cost is still under review the program is currently estimated to cost between $304 million and $556 million for the 15-year program.

According to a spokesperson from Denver Water, each line replacement takes around four to eight hours. As of June 26, over 1,300 lines had been replaced in the service area. 

A booklet outlining the steps for each possible replacement includes not only a home visit and replacement if necessary, but also a four-month check-in and the aforementioned water filtering pitcher provided to those needing replacement. 

These filters will be provided to all customers with a known, possible or suspected lead service line for no direct charge. Filters and replacements will be available to those who receive a pitcher until those customers’ lines can be replaced.

Since the beginning of the program in early spring, along with the over 1,300 lines replaced, Denver Water has distributed 87,000 pitchers with filters.

According to Denver Water, the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed down the program. The program team is focusing on work that needs to be done before the actual line replacement, including gathering consent forms from property owners. This prep work will create a pool of properties that are ready for the actual replacement work “when the time is right,” according to Denver Water. 

Outside of residential areas, the Lead Reduction Program team has been focusing on replacing lines at properties that are closed due to the pandemic, since the water must be turned off to complete the replacement of a service line. 

“Delivering safe drinking water is Denver Water’s most important responsibility,” Lochhead said in a Denver Water Tap article. “No other utility in the nation is taking this proactive and voluntary approach to replace customer-owned service lines. The Lead Reduction Program will protect future generations and is in the best interest of public health and the environment.”

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