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Council Hears Cincinnati Water Works Lead Strategy

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The Greater Cincinnati Water Works recently sent letters to more than 16,000 property owners letting them know their homes and businesses may be getting water through a lead service line.  

Jeff Swertfeger with Water Works says the city is replacing lines when doing other work.

"When we replace the water main, we can replace our part of the service branch, the part that we own up to right around the property boundary," Swertfeger said.  "However, we're not allowed using water revenues to go onto the customer side, onto the private property, and make improvements and remove that line, so that would be the customer's responsibility to do that."

The city has been replacing about 400 of its service lines a year, and at that pace it would take another 40 years to remove all of them.  Water Works would like to speed up the process, but that would require an extra $5 to $10 million per year depending on how quickly the service lines are replaced.  The water works would like to have this completed within 15 years.

Customers who have to replace their portion of the service line could expect to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for that work.

Besides notification letters, Water Works Director Cathy Bailey said the department has sent out 703 testing kits.  So far 191 of them have been returned and about 170 have been analyzed as of Monday.

"I believe four had higher lead levels," Bailey said.  "When we see a high level we immediately call that customer and we start an investigation to see what could be the source of that and we start discussing ways that they can mitigate that lead."

The Water Works stressed the city's water supply is safe; and officials use a chemical treatment process to prevent the lead from service lines from leaching into the water supply going into homes and businesses.  

A city memo said in the last ten years, the Water Works has sampled 1,432 premises for lead within the city and nearly 95 percent of the results are below the U.S. EPA's action level for lead.

You can find additional information about the city's lead mitigation strategies online.