The Bennington Lead Service Line Replacement Project

Summary

Lead service lines are a nationwide problem. A service line is a drinking water pipe that runs from a public water main into a building, delivering water. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, lead was a popular material for service lines due to its flexibility and the fact that it does not rust.

Lead is a neurotoxin and a drinking water contaminant regulated by both the federal Safe Drinking Water Act 40 CFR Part 141 Subpart I and the Vermont Water Supply Rule. These regulations establish a target concentration of 0 micrograms per liter (ug/L, parts per billion) of lead in drinking water. Per these regulations, there is no safe level of lead in drinking water.

Many cities and town with water systems constructed before 1950, including Bennington, have lead pipes that are still in use. The Town of Bennington has been replacing lead drinking water pipes since the 1970s. In 2017, the Town of Bennington contracted with MSK Engineers to identify where lead service lines may still be in use so they can be replaced. This mapping phase revealed that approximately 1,600 service lines in town were originally constructed of lead pipe or from unknown pipe materials that may include lead pipe.

The Town of Bennington has commenced a multiphase project to replace lead service lines throughout the water system. This entire project is funded by the State of Vermont, at no cost to homeowners.

Table of Contents:


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 Service Line 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 water shutoff valve 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 1938. 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.

Lead Service Lines in Bennington

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.

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 $5,000–10,000, depending on the site, and records with information on where lead service lines were still in use in town 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 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.

Project Schedule

The Bennington Service Line Replacement Project is broken into multiple phases. Below is an estimated project schedule. Use the web map at the bottom of this web page to see which phase your property is in, as well as other information.

2017-2018 Mapping Phase: Assessing the scale of the problem
2019-2020 DWSRF Step I Planning Phase: Confirming lead service lines and preparing for construction
2020-2021 Contract 1: Remaining confirmations and construction
2020-2021 Contract 2: Remaining confirmations and construction
2021-2022 Contract 3: Remaining confirmations and construction
2021-2022 Contract 4: Remaining confirmations and construction

Note: These dates are estimates. The impacts of COVID-19 and the complex nature of the project could change this timeline dramatically. Additionally, current funds may not be enough to complete all contracts with a single project. There may be follow-up projects to find and replace remaining lines. We cannot guarantee replacements for a given area until construction begins.

What is the Project Area?

If your property is listed in available Town records as having a service line made of lead pipe, or is unknown and may include lead pipe, you will receive mail with information about being included in the project area. You may have already received and responded to this mailing. You will receive a final letter when the contract that includes your house commences. See the web map at the bottom of this webpage to see which contract your property may be in.

If you have not received mail and would like to sign up online, submit your information using the fields below. If records indicate that your property is connected by a service line made of nonlead material and is therefore not in the project area, we will let you know.

If you have already responded to mailings about this project, you may receive additional mailings requesting to arrange water quality sampling. Water quality samples will be analyzed at an analytical laboratory for lead concentrations to evaluate whether the service line or segments of the service line are likely constructed from lead pipe.

    *indicates required field



    1/2 inch3/4 inch1 inchI do not know

    I cannot access or locate my service line

    Understanding Your Sampling Results

    Lead is a toxic substance, even at low levels. The federal Lead and Copper Rule and the Vermont Water Supply Rule establish a Lead Action Level of 15 ug/L, or parts per billion. A water system that tests above 15 ug/L in more than 10% of annual water samples is required to take measures such as corrosion control. The US EPA and the State of Vermont establish a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal of 0 ug/L—no detectable lead—as the minimum “safe” level of lead in drinking water. Per the Vermont Department of Health, there is no safe level of lead.

    See the section on Reducing Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water for recommendations on how to limit your exposure to lead.

    Sources of Lead in Drinking Water

    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 of 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.

    Corrosion Control in the Bennington Water System

    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 of 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

    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 the water tests positive for 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. In 1996, the US banned fixtures with more than 8% lead content. Today no more than 0.25% lead is allowed [ACT 193]. Buildings with older plumbing fixtures, including faucets, could see lead in drinking water from these fixtures. Fixtures that have chrome or other non-brass surfaces may contain internal brass components.

    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.

    Reducing Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water

    See the Vermont Department of Health webpage on lead in drinking water for recommendations on reducing exposure to lead. For additional information, see the U.S. EPA webpage on lead in drinking water.

    Per the US EPA and Vermont Department of Health, several methods can be used to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. The first and most effective method is to remove and replace the lead material entirely. This is the only way to completely eliminate the potential for lead to be present in drinking water. See the graphic below from US EPA for more information on how lead gets into drinking water and methods for reducing exposure.

    Water Filtration

    One method to remove lead from drinking water is to use a water filter. However, a water filter will not work unless it is maintained. Maintenance may include replacing filter cartridges, cleaning the filter, or other needs depending on the model.

    When shopping for a filter, look for one that is certified by NSF International or ANSI to remove lead from drinking water. NSF/ANSI certification indicates the product has passed independent third-party testing and has demonstrated effectiveness at removing lead from drinking water.

    The lead removal performance of water filters varies by manufacturer and by the characteristics of the water being treated. Filters typically remove 80% to 99% of the lead present in drinking water. A water filter may not remove all lead from the water.

    Flushing the Tap

    Per the US EPA and Vermont Department of Health, another way to limit exposure to lead is to flush the tap before drinking the water. Lead gets into drinking water by surface contact. The longer the water sits in contact with a lead-containing pipe or fixture, the more lead leaches in. 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 out that water and bring new water from the main. Taking a shower, doing dishes or running a washing machine will also work—anything that flushes the pipes. Boiling water will not remove lead.

    Lead can still enter the water as it passes through the pipes, without sitting. High water flow rates can break off small particles of lead into the water, raising the concentration substantially. Flushing the tap can help, but maintaining a filter or removing the lead plumbing will be more effective.

    EPA Lead in Drinking Water Info

    See Information About Your Property

    Use the web map below to see information about a specific property. Click on a building to see whether Town records indicate the service line is lead, where the property is in the Project Schedule, and other information. You may zoom in to see individual property numbers or use the search bar to locate a specific address.

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

     

    Questions About the Project

    If you have questions or wish to speak to someone about the project, please contact:
    Liam McRae
    MSK Engineers
    802-447-1402, Extension 123
    lmcrae@mskeng.com
    Feel free to call anytime between 8am and 8pm.