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Infrastructure money paying for thousands of homeowners' lead pipe replacements

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Posted at 11:28 AM, Dec 28, 2022

DENVER — The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law set aside $15 billion to remove lead pipes from neighborhoods across the country, and many cities are using the money to make these repairs free for homeowners.

Denver is one city successfully removing lead pipes for free, and its program is one other cities are now modeling.

“Water is life. There’s not much we can do with without it,” said Jose Salas of Denver Water.

He said the utility and the city put an intention and concentrated effort into lead pipe removal, and now, they’re seeing the program succeed.

Homeowners like Steve Goldstone never thought he would need to be part of the Lead Reduction Program in his neighborhood. He tested his water and found the lead levels were below what is considered harmful.

But, the Environmental Protection Agency declared that no level of lead exposure is safe. So, cities like Denver are working on a multi-year project to rid the city of this source of possible contamination altogether.

There is currently no lead leeching into the water supply in Denver, but if water pH changes, the water can become contaminated. Denver Water is not willing to take the chance.

The City of Denver sent Goldstone a letter to say he qualified for a replacement.

“When you hear about places like Flint, Michigan, and the tragedy of what happened to young children and families in Flint, you know, I would have been a fool not to have had this done,” said Goldstone.

“They replaced everything below the valve and connected it up to our water,” explained Goldstone. He said the entire process was finished within one day, and they were only without water for a couple of hours.

Programs like this are going on already in cities like Buffalo, Cincinnati and St. Paul. In the past, lead pipe removal programs have put the cost burden on homeowners. With the big boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, the more than $10,000 expense of removing these pipes won’t fall on a homeowner’s shoulders.

Salas said the city focused on lead pipe removal as a public health initiative because lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, hearing and speech issues and a lower IQ.

“Public health is what’s at stake. And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Salas.

Denver Water is replacing lead pipes, monitoring the water quality and pH, and offering free filters and resources to the community to test their water quality.

This proactive approach is why other cities look to Denver for how to wash this concern down the drain for good.

“We hope the Denver Water lead reduction program can be a blueprint for other utilities to go off of,” said Salas.

Goldstone said he hopes other families receive the same help he was given.

“It’s an investment in our house, the neighborhood, the city. Any chance we have to improve the health or protect the health of our children: let’s do it,” said Goldstone.