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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    New London officials to attend event on lead pipes at the White House today

    New London ― The city is being represented at the White House today.

    Mayor Michael Passero and Director of Public Utilities Joe Lanzafame will be in Washington, D.C., for an event highlighting the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to eliminate lead pipes in the nation’s water supply systems.

    Connecticut is set to receive $150 million for the replacement of lead service lines from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, and New London is the first municipality in the state to have a replacement program in place.

    “I’m thrilled for our residents that Joe took on this project and kept at it to protect the health and safety of our neighbors,” Passero said in the release. “And I’m equally thrilled that Joe will join me at the White House to receive the recognition he deserves for making New London a model for the state when it comes to this national effort.”

    Although lead paint and leaded dust and soil cause most of the lead poisoning cases in the country, especially among babies and young children, 20% of people’s exposure to the highly toxic metal is through drinking water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    The lead water lines will be replaced with copper lines. The city’s program is expected to last three years and be free for property owners.

    Lanzafame, who has served as director since 2009, said the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority, initiated the program after news broke about the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., in 2014.

    Water in Flint became contaminated with lead and other contaminants after the city changed water supply sources which led to pipes corroding.

    “After speaking with W&WPCA Chairman Barry Weiner, we agreed that the writing was on the wall after Flint, so we decided to get ahead of this,” Lanzafame said in a press release.

    Historically lead can be found in pipes in homes built before 1986.

    Earlier this month, Lanzafame said the city has predicted there are 2,450 lead service lines that will need replacing. There are a total of 6,500 service lines in the city.

    The program is estimated to cost $36 million, according to the release. Lanzafame is requesting 80% in funding from state and federal agencies with the remainder coming from a low-interest loan.

    Work to remove all the known lead service lines could start as soon as April if funding is secured.

    Aside from the funding, Lanzafame said one of the biggest challenges was creating an inventory of the city’s lead pipes, which his department did.

    Once the project gets underway, the service lines will be replaced one neighborhood at a time. Residents will need to sign an agreement form to allow entry to their properties and be included in the project.

    The form can be found at leadfreenewlondon.com and mailed or dropped at the New London Water & Sewer Department at 15 Masonic St.

    Connecticut is one of four states collaborating with the EPA’s lead water line replacement program. The program provides communities with technical assistance to address barriers and accelerate progress toward lead service line identification and replacement. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin also are participating.

    This is a developing story.

    j.vazquez@theday.com

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