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Maine public water systems get federal funding to identify and replace lead service lines

Lead pipes or lining can be found in utility service lines, water main connections, and in plumbing fixtures manufactured before 2014.
m-m.net
Lead pipes or lining can be found in utility service lines, water main connections, and in plumbing fixtures manufactured before 2014.

Maine's municipal public water utilities are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide inventories of their lead service water lines to the state this year, and replace them with the help of federal funding.

The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding up to $28 million a year to Maine for five years to help public water systems identify and replace lead service lines.

The federal government said 40% of the funding must go to disadvantaged communities.

Maine Drinking Water Program Manager Amy Lachance said there are currently applications for $20 million worth of projects in the state, all seeking zero interest loans with principal forgiveness and grants.

"There are communities that are replacing water mains and they don't know if they're going to find lead service lines but they want to make sure the funding is available," Lachance said.

The EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants that consumer formula mixed with tap water and young children are much more at risk.

Lachance said she only knows of a dozen or so lead service water lines in the state that have been identified.

"We have determined that in 1926 the state plumbing code banned the installation of lead service lines. We believe that is the reason that we don't have many lead service lines in the state," she said.

Lachance added that plumbing fixtures manufactured before 2014 can have up to 8% lead in them. She said homeowners can purchase relatively inexpensive water tests to check their drinking water at home.

Public water systems are required to provide their lead service line inventories to the state this fall. Applications for federal funding to assist with lead service line replacement projects are taken in September.

The Biden Administration said total funding announced through this EPA program is expected to replace up to 1.7 million lead pipes nationwide, the goal is to secure clean drinking water for countless families.

You can learn more about Maine's Drinking Water Program here.

Visit this page for more information on the EPA's lead service line program.