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D.C. offers financial aid for residents to replace lead water pipes

D.C. Water workers replace a home's lead service line with a copper pipe. (D.C. Water)

Some District residents qualify for financial assistance from the city to cover part or all of the cost of replacing their lead water pipes under a new program aimed at completing lead service line replacements in about 12,000 homes.

The program covers homes where D.C. Water already has replaced the part of the lead service line, which connects homes to the water main, on public property. Those residents may apply for financial aid to replace the rest of the lead line between the property line and their home with safer copper pipe, D.C. Water officials said Wednesday.

The program does not apply to about 19,000 homes where the entire service line, from the building to the street, is lead, the utility said.

Under a city law that took effect Oct. 1, all residents with partial lead pipes may apply for aid to cover at least half the cost of replacing the part on private property, D.C. Water said. Lower-income residents may apply for funding to cover 80 percent or all of the costs.

The program also will cover all costs of replacing a home’s lead service pipe whenever D.C. Water replaces the nearby water main or conducts emergency repairs on it. Residents will be notified of such work in advance and won’t have to apply for any discounts, utility officials said. Residents can email or call 202-787-4044 to see if a nearby water main is scheduled for upcoming work.

The $2.8 million annual program “should dramatically increase” the pace of replacing about 70 miles of lead service lines in the city, mostly for homes built before the 1980s, utility officials said.

“Everyone who owns a home in the District should know if they have lead pipes and work with us to get the lead out,” D.C. Water chief executive David L. Gadis said.

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The new law also requires landlords and home sellers to disclose if a home has a lead service line, as well as the results of any lead testing, the utility said.

Water leaves the treatment facility “essentially lead-free,” and the city’s distribution mains don’t contain lead, D.C. Water said. However, water can come into contact with lead as it flows through a home’s service pipe and plumbing fixtures.

Elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in pregnant women and young children.

D.C. Water has replaced the lead service lines for some homes but only the parts buried on public land. The rest has been left to homeowners. The replacements followed revelations that in the early 2000s, the utility did not disclose that a change in the water-treatment process had caused lead to leach from older pipes into drinking water, creating unsafe lead levels.

Property owners seeking financial assistance to complete their lead service line’s replacement must apply via the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment’s website before hiring a plumber or private contractor, D.C. Water’s John Deignan said.

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Owners of the 19,000 homes where none of the lead service line has been replaced can coordinate the work with D.C. Water, Deignan said. The utility will pay for the part of the pipe replacement on public property and will coordinate the work on private land with the homeowner, he said.

D.C. Water has a list of properties known to have lead service lines. Residents also can email or call 202-787-4044 to find out if their home has a lead pipe. Most apartment and condo buildings require larger service lines, which aren’t typically made of lead, the utility said.