How Interesting Can a Pipe Really Be?

by Hannah Braun

Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Your car slows to a crawl and red lights illuminate the orange construction cones ahead. “How long is this going to take,” you think to yourself in the exhausted manner that construction traffic brings to all of us.  As you pass, you notice the other lane has turned into a collapsed hole of exposed piping and wonder what is being done.

That construction could be for drinking water infrastructure improvements – a topic much on our minds last week as we marked the anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act.  EPA’s recently-published Drinking Water Action Plan placed infrastructure financing and maintenance in disadvantaged communities – including projects like the replacement of lead pipes – as the first of six “Priority Areas.”

One way people can be exposed to lead is through the service line, which is the pipe that connects the home to the water main in the street.  Some service line pipes made of lead can corrode and leach into water.  Localities like Washington, D.C. encourage people to find out if their service lines contain lead. Check out what I discovered when I looked up the service line to one of EPA’s Federal Triangle buildings.

In many jurisdictions, some or all of the service lines are the homeowners’ or landlords’ responsibility.  According to an evaluation by the EPA Science Advisory Board replacing private service lines in addition to the public ones is the optimal solution.

Not all towns in the Mid-Atlantic have websites like Washington, D.C.’s. We encourage you to investigate your service line composition and consider replacing it with lead-free plumbing if it is made of lead.  If replacement isn’t feasible, in the short-term, consider other options such as testing, flushing and filtering the water lines.  Feel free to comment with your findings below to share with your fellow citizens.

The next time you see construction ripping up the street or sidewalk causing congestion and inconvenience, take a deep breath – maybe the drinking water infrastructure is being improved.


About the Author Hannah Braun is an Environmental Protection Specialist in the Chemical Control Division in Washington, D.C. where her daily tasks include upholding the Toxic Substance Control Act and improving chemical transparency between industry, the EPA and the public.


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