Our Campaign for Lead Free Drinking Water

photo: Dave Pot / istock

As a founding member of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, Clean Water is committed to working with communities to get lead service lines out of the ground and away from our drinking water!

Tackling the problem at the source

Lead service lines are the biggest source of lead in drinking water. As lead service lines age, water breaks off from inside the pipe and makes its way into our tap water and eventually, our bodies. The most effective way to limit exposure to lead is to remove lead at the source. For lead in drinking water, this means focusing on digging up and replacing lead service lines that are some of the greatest contributors to lead in drinking water.

MA-lead in water.pngUnfortunately, many cities still require property owners to replace the portion of the lead service line that resides on private property. This leads to inequitable and inefficient lead service line replacements. Many low income homeowners and renters don’t have the ability to pay to replace their half of a lead service line. Even worse, when you only replace half of the lead service line (also known as a “partial replacement”), it can actually temporarily increase the amount of lead in drinking water. Partial replacements also mean that some lead is still in the ground, leaching into our tap water. This is why cities and towns need to commit to paying to replace the whole lead service line, not just the half that is publicly owned.

Being Proactive about Preventing Harm

DrinkingWater_Health Impacts of Lead.jpgMany cities water tests under the amount of lead allowed by the Lead and Copper Rule. But we know this doesn’t mean that the water is healthy or safe, especially for children. Scientists and regulatory bodies are all in agreement that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Even in small doses, lead exposure can permanently impact IQ and attention in children. We cannot  wait! We want communities to be proactive about lead service line removal whether or not it’s required.

Environmental Justice

The painful and predictable problem persists. Lower income communities, communities with higher populations of people of color, and communities with large immigrant populations and English Language Learners often do not have their lines replaced as quickly as wealthier, predominantly white communities. Safe drinking water is a basic human right, which is why Clean Water Action is committed to working with and prioritizing environmental justice communities.

Roles for Community Groups in LSL Replacement Efforts

Community advocate and organizing groups can play a pivotal, dynamic role in accelerating LSL replacement, as was the case for Clean Water Fund in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Maureo Fernández y Mora, Associate State Director, described how Clean Water served as both an ally to the Department of Public Works in Chelsea, helping it design and fund an LSL replacement program, and as an advocate for and bridge to the community. Learn more.

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