The Bennington Lead Service Line Replacement Project

Summary

In 2017, the Town of Bennington commenced a multiphase project to replace lead service lines throughout the water system. Service lines are drinking water pipes that run from a public water main into a building.

The Bennington Lead Replacement Project is divided into four contract areas. See the project schedule below for information about when to expect replacements and for recommendations about what to do in the meantime. Use the web map to view information about your property, including which contract area it may be in.

This project is funded by a grant from the State of Vermont and comes at no cost to homeowners or residents. The goal of this project is to identify and replace as many lead service lines in Bennington as possible, to extent that funding is available. These replacements cannot be guaranteed until construction begins.

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Contact MSK Engineers

If you have questions about the project, please contact MSK by phone or email. Feel free to call anytime between 8 AM and 8 PM.


Liam McRae

MSK Engineers

802-447-1402, Ext. 123

lmcrae@mskeng.com

Project Schedule

The project is divided into four contract areas. Use the web map to see which contract area your property may be in.

See below for the estimated dates when work will start for each contract area. All the dates listed are estimates only. New challenges or delays may cause these dates to change, especially given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contract 1
Final Observations and Water Sampling Complete
Survey, Design, and Permitting Complete
Construction In Progress
Contract 2
Final Observations and Water Sampling Complete
Survey, Design, and Permitting In Progress
Construction Expected Fall 2021
Contract 3
Final Observations and Water Sampling Expected Fall 2021
Survey, Design, and Permitting In Progress
Construction Expected Spring 2022
Contract 4
Final Observations and Water Sampling Expected Spring 2022
Survey, Design, and Permitting Expected Spring 2022
Construction Expected Fall 2022

It is not too late to sign up for replacement!

Even if work has been completed for your area, we can still add your property to the extent that funding is available. Please use this form to express interest in a replacement service line.

How to Read Sampling Results

What the Units Mean

Lead sampling results for the Bennington Lead Replacement Project are delivered in micrograms per liter (ug/L), also known as parts per billion. The results will include a number followed by one or two decimal places, for example, 2.5 ug/L.

The laboratory detection limit is 1 ug/L. A result of <1 ug/L means that that sample did not detect any lead. You may have received results from other testing programs in milligrams per liter (mg/L), also known as parts per million. Results would include a zero followed by three or four decimal places, for example, 0.0025 mg/L. It is important not to get these confused with micrograms per liter. Results in milligrams per liter can look deceptively small.

How Much is “Safe”?

The EPA and State of Vermont Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) for lead is 0 ug/L. This means that any detectable lead is above the MCLG and considered a health risk. The only “safe” test results would be no lead detected (<1 ug/L). However, even these results could reflect seasonal variations or other conditions that temporarily reduce lead concentrations in drinking water. See below for two actions you can take to reduce lead concentrations in drinking water. These methods can help, but the best course of action is to remove the lead material. For this reason, the Bennington Lead Replacement Project aims to remove and replace lead service lines entirely.

Other Sources of Lead

You may see lead detections in the first few sampling results even though your letter from the Town of Bennington says the service line is probably not made of lead. These detections are most likely from lead solder or brass fixtures, not a lead service line. To reduce the impact of these plumbing components, see below for a list of certified water filters and instructions on how to flush the tap. These methods can help reduce lead in drinking water. However, the most effective method is to replace the lead components entirely.

What to Do While Waiting for Replacement

Approximately 40% of service lines in the Bennington water system are classified as Lead or Unknown. The Bennington Lead Replacement Project was initially estimated to take up to ten years to complete. When the Town secured $11 million in grant funding, that estimate was cut in half. However, this is still a significant amount of time for families to wait. Two steps you can take to reduce lead in drinking water while waiting for an inspection or a replacement include maintaining a certified water filter and flushing the tap.

Where to Find a Certified Water Filter

Using a filter will not remove 100% of lead from drinking water, but it can reduce lead levels substantially. It is important to search for a filter that is certified to the ANSI or NSF-53 standard to remove lead. For example, the standard filter cartridges from Brita or PUR will not reliably remove lead from drinking water. However, the Brita Longlast and PUR PLUS cartridges will. These cartridges are both certified to the NSF-53 standard to remove lead. Remember: a water filter will not work unless it is maintained. You must replace filter cartridges, clean the filter, or whatever steps the instructions specify for the filter to work.

Below are two links to lists of filters that are certified to the NSF-53 standard to remove lead from drinking water. The first link is from NSF. These products are certified by NSF directly. The second list is from the Water Quality Association (WQA). These filters are certified by WQA to the NSF-53 standard to remove lead.

NSF Product Search Page: https://info.nsf.org/Certified/DWTU/

  1. Under Product Standard, choose NSF-53.
  2. Choose a product type like faucet mount or pour-through [water pitcher].
  3. Under Reduction Claim choose Lead Reduction.
  4. Click Search

WQA certified filters list: https://www.wqa.org/Find-Products#/keyword/?categories=5&claims=46

How to Flush the Tap

Lead gets into drinking water through surface contact. The longer the water sits in contact with a lead-containing pipe or fixture, the more lead leaches in. This includes brass fixtures, like faucets. Even if a faucet looks silver or chrome, it may be brass underneath. Brass installed before 2011 can contain as much as 8% lead.

Any time water has been sitting in the pipes for more than a few hours, running the tap until the water feels ice cold can help flush that water out. This ice-cold water is new water from the main, which has not had time to stagnate and take up lead. Taking a shower, doing dishes, or running a washing machine will also work—anything that flushes the pipes. Boiling water will not remove lead.

Unfortunately, lead can still enter the water as it passes through the pipes, without stagnating. Water flow can break off small particles of lead, substantially raising the concentration of lead. For this reason, although flushing the tap can help reduce lead in drinking water, maintaining a filter and removing lead components are more effective.

Web Map: See Information About Your Property

Use the web map below to see information about a specific property, including which contract area it may be in. Click on a building to see a pop-up with available information.

On mobile devices follow this link to see the map. https://benningtonrpc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=78b148c528c346c696041e6386f490c0

Sign Up for Replacement

To express interest in a replacement service line, submit your information using the fields below. MSK Engineers will contact you to set up an observation and water sampling.

    *indicates required field



    1/2 inch3/4 inch1 inchI do not know

    I cannot access or locate my service line

    Other Information About Lead

    Why is Lead a Problem?

    Lead is a neurotoxin, even at low levels. The federal Lead and Copper rule and the VT Water Supply Rule establish a Lead Action Level of 15 micrograms per liter (ug/L) and a goal of 0 ug/L as the minimum “safe” level of lead in drinking water. Per the VT Department of Health, there is no safe level of lead.

    Lead can enter drinking water by dissolving off lead-containing pipes and fixtures. It can also be dislodged as particulates by water currents. Water service lines made completely or partially of lead represent a public health risk. A 2017 mapping effort by the Town of Bennington and MSK Engineers revealed that approximately 1,600 service lines in the Bennington water system were originally constructed of lead pipe or of unknown materials. The Bennington Lead Replacement Project is an effort to find and replace these lead lines. The entire project is currently funded by the State of Vermont, at no cost to homeowners.

    What is a Lead Service Line?

    A water service line is a pipe that runs from the water main into a building, delivering drinking water. Service lines have two sections. The first section runs from the water main in the street to a water shutoff valve at the edge of private property. This “town side” is owned and maintained by the water system. The next section of pipe runs from the edge of private property into the building itself. This “customer side” is owned and maintained by the property owner.

    The Bennington Service Line Replacement Project is an effort to find and remove water service lines made completely or partially of lead pipe.

    Lead Service Lines in the United States

    Lead water service lines are a nationwide problem. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, lead was a popular material for drinking water pipes due to its flexibility and the fact that it does not rust. Many cities and town with water systems constructed during this period, including Bennington, have lead pipes that are still in use. The latest known lead service line in Bennington was installed in 1940. Lead service lines continued to be used in the United States until they were banned in 1986. The US EPA estimates that there could be as many as 10 million lead service lines still in use throughout the country.

    Initially constructed in 1886, the Bennington water system is one of the oldest in Vermont. Bennington provides corrosion control via the addition of lime and carbon dioxide to the finished water. This increases the pH and alkalinity to mitigate the leaching of lead into drinking water. Bennington was the first public water system in the country to install modern corrosion control in public drinking water.

    Lead service lines in Bennington

    The Town of Bennington has been replacing lead service lines since the 1970s. However, large-scale replacement has not yet been performed. A single lead service line replacement can cost between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the site, and historical records on where lead service lines were installed in the Bennington are incomplete. These two problems characterize much of the challenge with lead service lines throughout the country.

    In 2017, a collection of historical town records was recovered that identified the material of many service lines installed prior to 1983. Additionally, the State of Vermont provided the town a grant to identify, locate, and map lead service lines in Bennington. At this time, the Town of Bennington contracted with MSK Engineers on a mapping effort to identify where lead service lines may still be in use in the Bennington water system so that they could be replaced. The mapping phase revealed that approximately 1,600 water service pipes—more than 40% of the water system—were originally constructed of lead pipe or were made of unknown materials.

    Following this mapping effort, the Town and MSK Engineers secured an $11 million grant from the State of Vermont to find, remove, and replace discoverable lead service lines in the Bennington water system, at no cost to homeowners.

    Understanding Corrosion Control

    The Bennington water system draws water from two sources: Morgan Springs and Bolles Brook. Neither of the two water sources contribute lead to the finished water. Lead leaches into drinking water by corroding (dissolving) off lead-containing pipes and fixtures. As water is in contact with the pipe or fixture, it may corrode small parts of the pipe or fixture surface, releasing lead into the water. The longer the water sits in contact with the pipe or fixture, the more lead may be released.

    The water from the Bolles Brook water source has low pH, meaning it is naturally corrosive. The water system provides corrosion control by adding lime and carbon dioxide as part of finished water treatment. This increases the pH and alkalinity to reduce the corrosion of lead off pipes and fixtures. It cannot reduce corrosion completely, however. Bennington was the first public water system in the country to install modern corrosion control in public drinking water.

    Sources of Lead in Drinking Water

    There are four major sources of lead in drinking water: lead pipes, lead solder, brass plumbing fixtures, and galvanized steel pipes.

    Lead Pipes

    Lead pipes are considered a significant source of lead contamination in drinking water. As water sits in contact with the pipe it may corrode small parts of the pipe surface, releasing lead. The longer the water sits in contact with the pipe, the more lead may be released.

    Lead Solder

    Up until 1986, pipe solder for joining plumbing joints was typically made of a 50-50 blend of lead and tin. The allowable lead content has been reduced successively since then. Today, solder may contain no more than 0.2% lead [ACT 193]. It is highly likely that a house constructed before 1986 has leaded solder on the plumbing joints unless the plumbing has been replaced.

    If water sampling detects lead and the service line is known to not contain lead pipe, the source is likely lead-containing solder on interior plumbing or a brass fixture.

    Brass Fixtures

    Another source of lead is brass fixtures. Brass contains lead in varying concentrations. Up until 2011, brass fixtures like faucets could contain as much as 8% lead. Today, no more than 0.25% lead is allowed [ACT 193]. Buildings with older plumbing fixtures could see lead in drinking water from these fixtures. Fixtures that have chrome or other non-brass surfaces may contain brass components underneath the decorative surface.

    Galvanized Steel Pipes

    Galvanized steel pipes can also be a source of lead. Older galvanized steel pipes were dipped in zinc that had impurities, including lead. As the zinc coating wears off, lead impurities in the coating may dissolve into the water. Additionally, lead particles from a lead service line or lead solder can be trapped in the corroding surface of a galvanized pipe. This lead can break off and enter the water long after the lead plumbing itself has been removed.