In July 2021, New Jersey enacted a new law (P.L 2021, c.183) requiring all public community water systems to inventory and replace all known lead or galvanized steel service lines by 2031. Middlesex Water is pleased to join this statewide initiative focused on reducing lead in drinking water and improving public health.
How Does Lead Get into Drinking Water?
Most lead exposure comes from contaminated soil, dust, or paint chips. However, while rarely found in water leaving a treatment plant or traveling through a water main in a water provider’s distribution system, lead can sometimes be found in drinking water. Lead can dissolve into water as it comes in contact with lead containing materials such as a pipe known as a “service line” and plumbing fixtures inside a building. But a robust Corrosion Control Program, such as the one used by Middlesex Water, will minimize the amount of lead released.
In addition to producing an inventory of “known” lead or galvanized steel service lines within the distribution system, water systems will also be required to identify and address all service lines whose material composition is unknown by July 2031. In most cases, a service line contains two portions, a Company owned-portion (typically from the water main in the street to the curb stop typically at the property line or sidewalk) and a customer-owned portion (from the curb stop to the meter inside the home).
At Middlesex Water, we’re eager to comply with this new requirement and announced our Lead Service Line Replacement Program in mid-February 2022. We have posted our service line inventory on our website where customers can view the composition of their service line. In addition, we also mailed certified notices in February 2022 to those customers whose service lines may contain lead or galvanized pipe.
Generally, homes constructed before 1988, may contain lead or galvanized service lines. There is less of a likelihood of lead or galvanized steel service lines in homes constructed after 1988.
Reducing Lead Exposure
Middlesex Water has long taken steps to protect its customers from lead exposure.
- Middlesex Water replaced all of the company-owned lead service lines more than 30 years ago with the onset of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Lead and Copper Rule. We are now shifting our focus to replacing any known galvanized steel lines and lead goosenecks (a small connecting pipe) on the company-owned portion of the service lines, as per the new rules.
- Middlesex Water has had a long-standing Corrosion Control Program which helps control the pH level in the water. The pH level impacts the corrosivity of water. A corrosion control chemical, zinc orthophosphate, is used as part of the normal water treatment process. Zinc orthophosphate coats the inside of the service lines, helping to minimize the amount of lead which could potentially dissolve into the water.
- Lead sampling and testing is conducted every six months in compliance with state and federal regulations. The Lead and Copper Rule is a component of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act which is administered by the USEPA by authorization of Congress. Middlesex Water has never exceeded the lead or copper action levels set by the Lead and Copper Rule.
A Shared Responsibility between Customer and the Company
Middlesex Water intends to replace the lead and galvanized steel service lines on both portions of the line at no direct cost to the customer. The Company will also be conducting public outreach to instruct customers how to test for, and self-report, the composition of the service line on their property through a web-based survey tool. Middlesex Water maintains few details on the portion of the customer-owned service lines because this portion of line is on customer property and therefore is owned by, and is the responsibility of, the customer. Data gathered from customers through the survey will help inform and prioritize the company’s lead plan and replacement schedule.
RENEW Program Pilot to include Lead Service Line Replacement
Middlesex Water conducts an annual RENEW Program where we replace valves, hydrants and water mains. The RENEW 2022 Program has expanded to now include the identification and removal of lead and galvanized steel service lines on both the customer-owned and company-owned portion of service lines. This measured approach, within a defined RENEW project scope area, enables the Company to strategically and efficiently perform as many upgrades as possible while minimizing repeated impact to customers.
Join us as we work together to identify and replace lead service lines to help keep drinking water safe. Customers can obtain more information on lead in drinking water here.
For ways to reduce exposure to lead, check out this USEPA infographic.