Are there lead pipes serving homes in Great Barrington — or anywhere else? The EPA wants to know about it | Local News
An engineer examines the utility line access point at a home in Bennington, Vt., to determine whether it is made of lead. The EPA now requires drinking water systems to conduct an inventory of water pipes to identify those that contain lead.
GREAT BARRINGTON – In his 30 years working for the city’s public drinking water utility, Great Barrington Fire District Water Supervisor Peter Marks has never seen a water main.
Also James Mercer, co-owner and treasurer of the privately owned and neighboring Housatonic Water Works Co.
But in October, both Marks and Mercer will have to prove this to the government by conducting an inventory of the city’s water pipes. This also applies to every drinking water system in the Berkshires and throughout the United States
The Environmental Protection Agency’s revised lead and copper rule requires an inventory of lead-containing water pipes by an Oct. 16 year-end deadline.
Homeowners and renters can help water officials identify lead pipes where they live by filling out a form on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s web app. It asks for the year of manufacture and also offers the option of uploading a photo of the connecting cables.
The government is providing money for the effort as part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to remove lead from drinking water through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, because lead is toxic, especially to children.
The Great Barrington Water Department received $191,000 of that money, Marks said. This will fund the hiring of an engineer who can identify suspected lead pipes leading from houses to the street. It might also be worth the work to dig them up.
“But that’s not even enough to replace anything,” Marks said of replacing lead pipes. He spontaneously assumes that the sum could be between $5,000 and $10,000 per residence.
Owners may have to pay those costs unless new grants can be found, Marks said. Utility lines from the house to the street are the property of the homeowner.
The department hasn’t found any clues yet, but they’re not done searching yet. The mailers have not yet informed residents about the program and how they can help identify lead pipes.
Marks said construction after 1984 would be “automatically removed from the list” of places where there could be a guideline.
Bennington will receive $11 million to replace lead water pipes
Lead pipes were used beginning in the late 19th century until the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 banned the installation of lead service lines in new construction.
Part of the problem is that 100 years ago, no one kept track of what materials were used to build a house, Marks said.
How do you tell if it is lead? He said lead pipes “look gray, like they have a whitish powder residue,” although a galvanized pipe would look that way too. Additionally, the segments of a lead pipe would have been soldered together.
Mercer, whose company provides water to 850 customers in Housatonic and some areas of Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, said the company will conduct its own inventory. He declined to answer further questions about inventory and whether the company received federal money for it.
Mercer said there are no lead service lines in the Housatonic system.