In 2017, the Town of Bennington began a project to find and replace lead water service lines throughout the entire water system. To date, we have replaced more than 200 lead service lines, with hundreds more scheduled for replacement. This includes over 20 locations with a segment of lead pipe entirely outside the foundation wall, meaning they could not be seen from the basement.
All of this work is provided at no cost thanks to a grant from the State of Vermont.
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 ending. This is the last chance to have your water service line identified and replaced for free.
We are conducting a final round of door-to-door inspections in February 2024. If you receive a notice on your door, please be available at the time listed on your notice or complete your water sampling kit.
- What is a Water Service Line
How Does an Inspection Work
Schedule Your Inspection
- Water sampling
Water Sampling Instructions
- How to Read Your Results
- Replacement Schedule
- How to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water
Using a Filter
Flushing the Tap
- Web Map
- Other Information About Lead
What is a Water Service Line
Water service lines, or just “service lines,” are the small pipes that run from the public water main in the street across the yard into a building.
How Does an Inspection Work
A staff member from MSK Engineers will go into the basement or utility room. They will first find where the water line enters the building. If they observe lead pipe, they will begin planning a replacement. If they see copper pipe, they will take measurements to prepare a water sampling kit. An inspection usually takes 5-10 minutes.
The purpose of a sampling kit is to make sure there are no segments of lead pipe farther down the line. We have found this in over 20 cases as on February 2024. MSK will either provide the water sampling kit during the inspection or drop it on the front step within a few days.
Schedule Your Inspection
Call MSK Engineers at 802-231-3277 or visit www.calendly.com/mskwater/bennington to schedule your inspection.
Water Sampling Instructions
Click to download the water sampling instructions. Sampling is simple: avoid running any water for at least 6 hour, then fill the bottles all in a row. That’s it!
How to Read Your Results
Water sampling results for this project are delivered in micrograms per liter (ug/L), also known as “parts per billion.”
If you see a result of “<1,” this means “no lead detected.” The laboratory equipment is precise down to 1 ug/L, or one part per billion. So instead of reporting zero, they report <1, meaning “less than 1 ug/L if there is any.”
There may be lead detections in the first few samples even though the service line itself is not made of lead. Lead containing soldered joints and brass fixtures in interior plumbing can also introduce lead into drinking water. See How to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water for more information.
How Much Lead 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.
We have encountered severe delays which have impacted the construction schedule. These range from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to findings of archaeological sensitivity throughout the project area.
Additionally, we must group properties into large construction contracts and complete a full design submittal in order to receive funding for construction. For previous construction groups, the approval process has taken as long as eight months.
We have taken several steps to rearrange construction groups and speed up replacements. Below are estimated kickoff times for each construction group:
Group 1 Complete
Group 2 Complete
Group 3 Complete
Group 4 Summer 2024
Archaeological Group Fall 2024
Group 5 Fall 2024
To see which construction group you are in, find your property on the web map below and click on your building.
How to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water
If you are waiting for a replacement service line or otherwise want to minimize lead in your drinking water, the VT Department of Health recommends the following options:
Using a Filter
If you use a filter, besure to look for on that is certified to the NSF-53 standard to remove lead. For example, the Brita LONGLAST and PUR PLUS filter cartridges are both certified to remove lead. However, their standard filter cartridges are not.
You can use the links below to find a certified water filter.
- NSF Product Search Page: https://info.nsf.org/Certified/DWTU/
- Under Product Standard, choose NSF-53.
- Choose a product type like faucet mount or pour-through [water pitcher].
- Under Reduction Claim choose Lead Reduction.
- Click Search
A filter will not remove 100% of lead from drinking water, but it can reduce lead levels substantially. And remember: a water filter will not work unless you replace filter cartridges on time, or complete other maintenance recommended by the manufacturer.
Flushing the Tap
Lead gets into drinking water through surface contact. 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.
Use this link to view a web map to see information about a specific property. Click on a building to see a pop-up with available information for your property. Zoom in to see individual street numbers. (NOTE: Web maps may not work in older versions of Safari. Use Chrome if you are having trouble).
On mobile devices, follow this link to see the map: https://benningtonrpc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=78b148c528c346c696041e6386f490c0
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.
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.
Other 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 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.
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.
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.