Concord looking for the last lead water lines leading into city homes

  • A schematic shows the general layout of water distribution lines to homes. Concord General Services

Monitor staff
Published: 6/1/2023 6:26:04 PM
Modified: 6/1/2023 6:25:40 PM

Officials from Concord will be testing, scraping and examining connections in the basements of some 1,500 private city homes and businesses this summer as they try to find any remaining lead pipes in the water distribution system.

“I don’t think there are any. We’re Yankees … and galvanized steel was cheaper than lead,” said Marco Philippon, water treatment superintendent for Concord. “But we have to be sure.”

The testing covers the connections in the city water system for which there is no record about what type of pipe carries water from the city-owned service line into the building.

Concord, which has 12,000 water connections, removed the last lead pipe from city-owned services in 2016. As part of that process Concord found and recorded the material of the property owners’ service pipe for about 10,500 customers. This summer’s survey is designed to determine material for all the rest.

This push comes as a result of an EPA mandate last August that required communities to develop complete itineraries of the material used to carry water to every property on the system. The itinerary must be finished by Oct. 16, 2024. It’s part of EPA tightening of rules on toxic lead and copper in drinking water, including a 2020 change that lowered the threshold at which utilities must take action from 15 parts per billion to 10 ppb.

The survey is not directly related to the school system’s shutting of a number of drinking fountains in Concord schools because of lead levels that exceeded standards set under a new state law. Levels of toxic metals like lead are lower for schools than other buildings because of concern about their effect on children’s developing brains.

The creation of a public inventory, Philippon said, will help people who are moving as well as those living here.

“If we were moving to Poughkeepsie in a house on 6 Main Street, by next year we’ll be able to look up and see what’s the water service material,” he said.

Philippon said he will be mailing letters to the 1,500 affected customers soon. Inspections will start by June 5 and should be finished by Sept. 5.

Determining what material the pipes are made of will require going into the buildings to view the connection, which is usually in the basement or crawl space. There are four possible materials, Philippon said: plastic, copper, steel and lead.

Plastic is obvious when seen. Copper is also obvious unless it has been painted in which a magnet can be used to differentiate it from steel (which, unlike copper, is magnetic). As for lead, a “scrape test” might be needed to be sure since lead is the softest of the metals.

The testing should only take about 10 minutes and is free. If lead pipes or other problems are found, the city “will provide recommendations to the property owner,” General Services says on its website.

The city secured a $75,000 grant through the state Department of Environmental Services to complete the survey, Philippon said.

The city does not test the pipes or connections that exist inside the house or building.


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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