City receives $5.1M from EPA to replace private lead service lines

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The private lead service line replacement project is currently underway in southeast Grand Rapids neighborhoods bounded by Franklin Street, Eastern Avenue, Hall Street and Jefferson Avenue. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids City Commission on Tuesday approved and accepted a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $5.1 million grant to help replace about 1,600 private lead service lines over the next four years in Neighborhoods of Focus within the city of Grand Rapids.

Since 2017, when it began full replacements, the city has replaced about 1,700 lead service lines.

The project will replace lead service lines between the curb box and water meter with copper water services in addition to sidewalk and lawn restoration. In previous years, lead service lines replacement on private property has been the responsibility of the homeowner. However, beginning in 2017, in advance of changes in rules, the city took on the responsibility for eligible homeowners to better serve its communities and fast-track lead service replacement in these neighborhoods.

The private lead service line replacement project is currently underway in southeast Grand Rapids neighborhoods bounded by Franklin Street, Eastern Avenue, Hall Street and Jefferson Avenue. This project includes the replacement of about 230 private lead service lines over the next six months.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant is part of the city’s four-year project to replace about 1,600 private lead service lines with copper pipe in 10 census tracts located in the Neighborhoods of Focus. Beginning this year and continuing through 2025, the city will perform this work in NOFs — 86% of this investment will take place in the Third Ward, and 14% will take place in the First Ward. This investment by the EPA and the city will complement another planned $16 million in capital investment for lead service replacements over this same period.

“For years, we have been committed to protecting our city’s water resources for our community, especially for those in Neighborhoods of Focus,” said Wayne Jernberg, Grand Rapids’ water system manager. “With the EPA’s help, we are able to add more service replacements in Neighborhoods of Focus and complete these projects more quickly.”

The Grand Rapids water system has inventoried the public and private water service line materials in its system. There are more than 24,000 lead service lines in the city of Grand Rapids (public, private and combination), representing 30% of the system. Presently, about 13,000 (54%) of those are located in NOFs, which are among the oldest developed areas in the region. Since 1994, the water system has treated its drinking water with an orthophosphate blend to coat pipes, inhibit corrosion and reduce lead in drinking water. The water system has met lead and copper requirements each year since testing began. However, remaining lead service lines must still be replaced.

“Collaborating with the city of Grand Rapids and investing in lead service line replacements will improve public health, create jobs and support economic growth,” said Cheryl Newton, acting U.S. EPA Region 5 administrator. “EPA is excited to see this important work continue and is committed to working with the city to ensure that residents have safe water to drink.”

More information on the city’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program is online.

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