New nationwide coalition aims to accelerate lead service line replacement, tackling legacy public health inequities and furthering environmental justice nationwide
Mayor Ballantyne attends coalition summit hosted by Vice President Harris
SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville is proud to join the inaugural cohort of the Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership, a coalition of 120+ government agencies, local communities, and organizations from across the country committed to accelerating lead service line replacement. Exposure to lead in drinking water is a national public health concern and a long-standing environmental justice issue that disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color.
To address these inequities, the Biden-Harris Administration aims to replace all lead service lines in America in the next decade. Founding members of the Get the Lead Out Partnership will work together to advance this goal, guided by a justice-centered framework. On Friday, January 27, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and other coalition representatives attended a summit hosted by Vice President Harris at the White House to celebrate the launch of the partnership and a suite of new federal actions to ensure all Americans receive safe, clean drinking water.
Somerville has led a targeted initiative to remove all traces of lead from the city’s water infrastructure for several years with great success. In 2019, with funding from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) Lead Loan Program, the City launched its Lead Service Line Replacement Program to replace the full length of all lead service lines, including the portion owned by the property owner, at no cost to the owner.
At the time of the program’s launch, available records indicated 450 service lines, or about 3.6% of all service lines citywide, were known or suspected to contain lead. Since then, the City has successfully replaced 194 of those 450 service lines, prioritizing homes with young children and multi-unit properties. The City is on pace to remove all known or suspected lead pipes from its water infrastructure by 2025, leading Massachusetts in its efforts to eliminate lead from its water system.
Lead exposure can pose serious health risks, especially for infants, young children, and pregnant people. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. Somerville’s drinking water is purchased from the MWRA lead-free, but lead can leach into tap water if plumbing fixtures made of lead corrode over time. Replacing the lead service line with a copper service line is the best way to reduce risk of lead exposure through drinking water.
“Everyone deserves clean drinking water and healthy homes, and we are determined to support the Get the Lead Out Partnership,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “The Biden-Harris Administration understands what we’ve been focused on in Somerville for years: removing lead from our water infrastructure as an urgent matter of public health and environmental justice. We’ve made tremendous progress locally to replace lead service lines, with equity at the core of our approach. I’m eager to share learnings with communities around the country committed to this work, and I’m proud to partner with the Biden-Harris administration on this critical initiative.”
To learn more about Somerville’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program and find out if your property has a water service line made of lead, visit somervillema.gov/leadservices or call 311 Constituent Services (617-666-3311). Both renters and property owners are encouraged to participate. The City and its contractor will work with eligible residents to schedule replacement, at no cost to property owners. Pipe replacement typically takes less than one day.