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EPA wants to accelerate lead pipe replacement in Connecticut, but timeline remains unclear

Newark Water Coalition's March For Clean Water
Demonstrators marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, in 2019 to protest levels in lead that tested higher than those in Flint, Michigan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched an initiative to accelerate lead service line replacement in parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dedicated $15 billion in 2021 to replace lead pipes across America. But this move provides new technical assistance to communities to remove lead service lines and to access funding.

David Cash, the EPA’s regional administrator for New England and its ten federally recognized tribes, said Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven all have old water infrastructure – but don’t have resources to replace it. He said the EPA will work to find unmapped lead service lines in the state.

“We’re also going to look at things like blood lead levels in children, that’s an indicator that lead is a problem,” Cash said. “It comes from sources other than lead pipes, it comes from paint chips, it comes from lead in soil.”

Ten communities in Connecticut with the highest concentration of lead will be included in the initiative, Cash said, but there will be a process for identifying those areas.

The Biden administration wants to replace every lead service line in the next decade. But Cash said it takes time to figure out where the unmapped pipes are located.

“It’s not the easiest thing,” Cash said. “You don’t want to dig up all the streets at the same time.”

“There is no safe level of lead, and reducing all sources of exposure is critical,” Anne Hulick, Connecticut director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action said in an email. She said that “it is imperative that we do so urgently and equitably, focusing on our most vulnerable residents.”

Cash noted that the agency will start with 40 communities across the four chosen states.

“These will be pilot projects,” Cash said. “If these work really well, in getting the lead out faster, then weÆll spread them to other communities all over the country.”

Federal officials estimate there are 6 million to 10 million lead service lines throughout the country.

Michayla Savitt is a reporter at CT Public, with an interest in covering climate change and the environment. She was a newsroom intern for the station in summer 2022, but began her time there as a production intern for WNPR's local talk shows. Michayla is an alumna of the health & science reporting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Before that, she was a reporter/anchor for various radio outlets in New York state.