Reading Area Water Authority expands lead reduction program after finding few properties with lead service lines.
The reduction program adopted by the Board of Directors at the end of 2019 enables every condominium to replace its main supply line. The program was limited to 25 properties per year.
“Lead is an issue that we want to address,” Executive Director Bill Murray said at the agency’s meeting on Tuesday.
The problem is that the agency didn’t find many lead pipes.
“We couldn’t find any due to our diligence or customers calling us,” he said. “We implemented the program for free in the hope that people would get in touch.”
Murray directed his team to use customer database information to look for potential lead service lines.
“We were able to develop three locations that we believe are service leaders,” said Murray.
The problem is that one of the leading service lines is on a four unit property and is not qualified for the program according to guidelines passed by the agency’s board of directors.
Murray asked the board to change the program so that any property with a service line smaller than a 1½-inch connection is eligible.
The change would result in many homes being converted into multi-unit properties, he said, adding that any property with a larger line of services is typically commercial.
Murray doesn’t think there are many lead service lines in town, he said.
“But I’m always careful when walking down a dark street when I don’t know what’s at the end,” he said. “That’s why we limited the program to 25 units (per year).”
The next step is to identify 100 properties that could potentially have lead service lines, Murray said. These properties receive a letter and the authority checks for lead pipes.
Murray said the agency is working to stay one step ahead of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new lead and copper regulations, which will have to be implemented in about two years.
“We want to get rid of the leading service lines in town,” said Murray.
Board member Jamal Abodalo praised Murray and the agency’s work so far.
“This is a very proactive move,” said Abodalo, who is also the city’s director of community development. “You are taking a very necessary and essential step when no one else is doing it.”
Many of the areas in the city that have lead pipes are in low-to-middle-income neighborhoods, Abodalo said.
“There are many less fortunate families with limited resources who actually thank Bill for taking such action,” Abodalo said. “We try to help our residents to improve their quality of life.”
The board of directors voted 6-0 to approve the program expansion.