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EPA taps local official for senior advising role on lead line replacement

Cathy Bailey greater cincinnati water works director
City of Cincinnati
/
Courtesy
Cathy Bailey is director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking to Cincinnati for guidance on replacing lead pipes for drinking water. Greater Cincinnati Water Works Director Cathy Bailey is serving as a senior advisor to the EPA for the next year.

“We are leading the way; our program here in Cincinnati has been deemed a model for the country,” Bailey said. “I have the opportunity now to share that information with others so that we know generations to come will have lead-free environments that they live in.”

Bailey launched Cincinnati’s lead service line program about five years ago. Starting in 2022, the program was expanded to cover the entire cost of replacing a lead service line on private property; previously, the program would cover 40% of the cost for all property owners, and 45-50% for low-income property owners.

Bailey says the EPA recently approached her about the temporary advising role.

“We have offered, from the beginning, free testing to our community … if we find high results, we will walk you through what you need to do,” Bailey said. “We proactively started a testing program with our schools; we proactively went out into the community and educated individual neighborhoods that had more lead lines than others.”

Cincinnati Council passed a resolution last week honoring Bailey for the appointment.

“She is receiving this honor because of her exceptional contributions to our region,” said Mayor Aftab Pureval. “And while we are sad to see her temporarily leave, there are now families across the country who will benefit from her service.”

Bailey’s national advising role will include helping other municipalities establish their own programs. She will work locally out of the EPA’s drinking water research office in Clifton, and she says she’ll remain closely connected to what’s happening at Water Works.

Verna Arnette will serve as interim director for Water Works until Bailey returns; Arnette is currently deputy director.

Instructions on how to find out if you have lead service lines on your property are available online: https://la.mygcww.org/do-i-have-a-lead-service-line/

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.