Lead pipes are often a hidden danger under the streets and sidewalks for a lot of families in Chelsea, but if the City
can help it, that danger will be removed one pipe at a time.
On Monday, the MWRA and the Clean Water Action Group awarded the City of Chelsea and GreenRoots for their early adoption of a program that removes, at no cost to the homeowner, lead water service lines while in the process of other infrastructure projects.
Part of that award included a $100,000 grant to help continue the program and remove more lead water lines as the City encounters them during paving or sidewalk repair programs.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it is a common sense operation, but one that goes the extra step in replacing the line for free – as it usually is the responsibility of the homeowner to pay for the replacement.
“For the last year or more, as we’ve undertaken other construction projects on the streets, when we encounter a lead service line on the street, we are replacing it at no cost to the homeowner,” he said. “The MWRA grant helps ensure we will be able to continue to do that. We all want safe and clean drinking water and having clean water is elemental.”
Over time, lead can leach into drinking water, and studies have shown that lead is a neurotoxin and can affect cognitive abilities with repeated exposure. This is particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women.
“Chelsea is so proactive in doing this,” said MWRA Director Fred Laskey. “They are going through the inventory and going house to house and street to street to get rid of this problem. This is something that should serve as a model in how to prevent the scourge of lead in water. No other community has forged into this.”
Fidel Maltez of the Chelsea DPW said that more than 50 lines have been replaced so far under the program. Some of those were last year and came when they were working on street repairs, including to Shurtleff, Maverick, Clark, Crescent, Lawrence, Tudor and Webster Streets. This year, they will take on Essex Street and will be looking for lead water lines there too.
“Every project moving forward is going to identify and remove these lines with zero cost to the homeowner,” he said.
He said that any homeowner that thinks they might have a lead service line should contact the DPW at (617) 466-4200. They will send out a technician to verify if it is a lead pipe, and if it is, they will put it on a list for completion.