TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It was devastating for Flint, MI - lead in the water nearly seven times greater than the EPA limit in 2015. Years later here at home, Tucson Water has been working to prevent that from happening to customers in their service area.
“The safest approach is to eliminate the lead from the distribution system,” Tucson Water’s Fernando Molina said.
In 2017 Tucson Water started its “Get the Lead Out” program, aimed at preventing lead exposure by removing lead service lines in the service area. The plan was to remove those service lines by the end of 2018.
Since starting the program in January 2017 Molina says Tucson Water has removed approximately 4,000 feet of lead service line. Crews were able to find those lines by digging into decades-old field documents to see where they might be. After that, they did verification across their service area with either an in-pipe camera system or excavation in the street to verify the type of service line. Tucson Water crews also inspected valves to make sure that they could stop the water flow if repairs were necessary and they tested the water quality before and after line replacement.
Molina says the plan was to investigate 530 total service lines and to replace the lead ones that they find. Right now crews are close to achieving that goal.
Molina said they’re ahead of schedule and they’re under budget. Molina says Tucson Water has only spent half of the money they budgeted for the project (around $1.5 million) and he says the rest of money they budgeted is going into their capital fund for other projects. He also adds that Tucson Water customers helped to fund projects like the Get the Lead Out program.
“When you get your water you’re not just paying for the water use, you’re paying for capital improvements like we see here," Molina says while at the site of one the lead pipe removals. "You’re paying for other capital improvements like repairing our reservoirs, reducing our leakage through that. So people need to remember that that’s what you pay for when you pay your water bill; to make sure to make that we have water. To make sure it’s safe to drink.”
There is one area that Tucson Water will be removing lead service lines from after 2018 ends, and that’s along Broadway Boulevard. Molina says Tucson Water and its' contractors wanted to wait to remove the lead lines along Broadway until after the Broadway widening project starts in 2019.