City Will Now Pay for Water Connection Replacements

Tuesday, October 16, 2018, 7:04 am
By: 
Casandra Eriksen

Above: Water connection images from the City's website.

The City of East Lansing will now pay to replace private property owners’ lead and galvanized pipes that connect to the City’s water system. But it needs property owners to assist in figuring out which pipes need replacement.

The State of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently passed a new rule requiring cities to pay to replace lead and galvanized plumbing that connects properties to the city’s water supply.

This rule change comes following the health crisis in Flint, where some citizens’ drinking water was found to contain very dangerous lead levels. Since the Flint water crisis broke, lead has been found in drinking water around the state, although much uncertainty remains about the extent of the problem.

According to a memo from Scott House, East Lansing’s Director of Public Works, the main changes to the DEQ rule mean the City is now “responsible for replacing all lead and galvanized water service lines in the distribution system between the City’s water main and the water meter [on private properties] by 2040, at an average rate of 5% per year.”

The memo from House notes that “lead and galvanized service lines were used primarily before 1950.” So, this concern disproportionately affects structures built before 1950.

The City estimates that there are about 2,400 properties in East Lansing that may have been built with lead and galvanized service lines. The exact number of current lead and galvanized water lines is unknown, but so far the City estimates it may have to replace up to 600 lead service lines, using about $2.7 million from the water fund.

The goal is to do “trenchless” replacement, by using various technologies to replace the lines without digging big holes on private properties.

According to a resolution passed by East Lansing’s City Council at its last meeting, lead is “generally benign in place unless and until nearby portions of the system are disturbed.”

The resolution notes that, in the past, municipal practice has been to do partial lead service line replacement if lead is discovered in pipes on public property. Lead-containing water lines on public property were replaced, while lines on private property that might contain lead would be left alone by the City. Now, the City must deal with the private property connections, too.

The Department of Public Works is going to need property owners’ help to determine whether their pipes need replacing.

According to a special website set up by the City, if you own property in East Lansing, you can and should self-report information about your water connection by taking an online survey. The survey walks property owners through identification steps to determine the type of pipe entering a home or business.

Alternatively, a property owner can schedule an inspection appointment with an East Lansing Department of Public Works staff member by calling 517-337-9459. In that case, a staff member will come out to assess the situation.