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Lincoln officials consider replacing home water lines

July 15, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lincoln officials are proposing to replace lead water service lines that lead into residents’ homes for free to avoid any future problems with lead in the city’s drinking water.

The $21 million plan is included in the mayor’s proposed budget, the Lincoln Journal Star reported . City Council will vote on the budget next month.

The proposal calls for the city to replace lead pipes for about 3,000 homes built before 1950 over a period of 14 years, said Donna Garden, the assistant director of the Public Works and Utilities Department. The project would begin next year.

“This is an excellent project that definitely prioritizes the public’s health,” said Charlotte Burke, a division manager with the local Department of Health.

Lead pipes were used for some homes in the early 1990s because they were malleable and easy for plumbers to handle, Garden said.

The city’s water has no detectable lead, but pipes that connect to some homes contain it, which could potentially result in a health hazard, Garden said. Those pipes are owned by the individual homeowners.

While property owners are typically responsible for repairs and replacement of the pipes, city staff have recommended paying for the pipe replacement, Garden said. The decision would follow other communities, such as Omaha, and heed the American Water Works Association’s advice, she said. City officials estimate replacing pipes would cost about $6,000 per house, Garden said.

Lead in water has been linked to behavior issues and learning disabilities, particularly in infants and small children, said Chris Schroeder, environmental health supervisor for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Department of Health.

Concerns about water contaminated with lead rose after water issues in Flint, Michigan, Garden said. Flint’s drinking water contamination problem began in 2014, when the city changed its source of water.

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