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NYS Department of Health grant targets lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins, Otis streets

By Mike Pettinella

The City of Batavia has tapped into a New York State program designed to help municipalities “get the lead out.”

Batavia City Council members, at their Conference Meeting via Zoom tonight, are expected to hear from Public Works Director Matt Worth about a $554,112 grant the City has received from the NYS Department of Health’s Lead Service Line Replacement Plan.

Worth said he and his staff have developed a work plan that is designed to replace 75 lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins and Otis streets on the City’s Southside.

“We suspect that 20 to 30 percent of our residential services may still be lead -- from the water main to the curb shut-off,” Worth said. “We have never observed it from the curb shut-off into the house.”

He said that City crews will be conducting vacuum excavations this summer in anticipation of construction starting as early as this fall and no later than next spring. The City awarded the engineering contract to GHD of Buffalo.

Worth said about $500,000 will be available after subtracting engineering costs.

“We’ll try to preserve as much as we can because every dollar we save on that side is maybe one more service we can do,” Worth said. “The vacuum excavation on the front end is being done all out of City costs – we’re not trying to use the grant money – so we can preserve as much of that grant money as possible to do as many services as we can.”

Lead was commonly used in the 1940s and ‘50s, Worth said, before giving way to galvanized pipe, copper, plastic and lead-free brass.

“Nothing that we use now contains any lead in it in the water industry,” he advised.

Worth said lead isn’t a significant health issue in water systems because the “water system creates a coating on the inside of the lead service, so the water does not come into contact with the lead. So, we don’t typically see concentrations of lead in people’s water when we test it.”

He said the City’s treated water is a little higher on the pH scale, and that tends to make it less corrosive.

“If you have water that is on the lower side of the pH scale, it can be more acidic and corrosive, and that’s where you will have a bigger issue with lead coming into people’s homes through the water,” he explained.

The NYS Lead Service Line Replacement Plan identifies grant recipients based on criteria included in the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017.

According to the DOH website, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that drinking water contaminated with lead can contribute to 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead, and infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their total exposure to lead from drinking water.

Funds from the grant can cover engineering fees (planning, design and construction), legal fees, municipal administration fees, construction (materials, equipment, workforce) and site/property restoration.

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