York Water Co.: Lead-abatement plan ahead of schedule

Maria Yohn
York Dispatch
The York Water Co. celebrated 200 years by unveiling its historical marker Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

The York Water Co. might finish replacing all of the company-owned lead service lines in less than half the time anticipated, according to CEO/President Jeff Hines.

After an EPA-mandated sampling in September 2016 revealed an “actionable amount” of lead in test samples, the company was required to educate its consumers about the findings and replace all company-owned lead service lines over a period of four years.

Hines said 1,100 pipes were replaced in 2017, the first year of the plan, and 500 pipes are slated to be replaced in 2018.

More:York Water to cover replacement of customers' lead service lines

More:York Water Co.: Check your lead levels, Yorkers

“We expect to complete the replacement of company lead service lines by later this year,” he said.

The company also is holding true to its promise of actively replacing customer-owned lead lines, as well as providing customers who suspect they have lead lines with free water tests and replacements.

"We think it's the right thing to do," Hines said.

Typically, homes built before 1940 could still contain lead lines, he said.

Hines also noted that the two most recent wide samplings revealed levels of 7.4 and 9.4 ppb (parts per billion), both below the action level.

Background: York Water Co.'s issues with contaminated water stem back to 2016, after an EPA-mandated sampling revealed that six of the 50 buildings it tested contained more than 15 ppb of lead in the tap water, which is over the maximum amount allowed by the EPA.

According to Hines, half of the homes tested were located in York City.

Although big water mains under the roads aren't lead, there are still lead pipes that run from the main lines to properties. These pipes are divided into two categories: pipes that run from the main to the property line, which are owned by York Water Co., and lines that run from the property line into the house, which are owned by the property owner, he said.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, York Water was one of only 5 percent of water systems in the state that had "actionable" levels of lead in 2016. The DEP declares an "actionable" level of lead when 10 percent or more of the samples come back with 15 ppb or greater. 

As a result, the company was mandated to test every six months. In addition, the company was required to notify all customers of the increased lead level via pamphlets, as well as educate residents and replace 7 percent of the company-owned lines each year.

At the time, the company noted it already was replacing 7 percent of its pipes per year.

Hines said the company set a new goal to replace 25 percent of the company-owned lines over the following four years, which would effectively eliminate all of its lead pipes.

That goal now is expected to be met in two years, he said.

In addition, the company offered to replace any customer-owned lead pipes that corresponded to the company-owned pipes they replaced. They also offered free testing to any customers who believed their pipes might be made of lead, particularly residents of pre-1940 homes..

Although the EPA only deems water systems with 15 ppb or more as "actionable," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, and consumption of lead is particularly dangerous for children, who could suffer from neurological problems, kidney failure and other health problems from elevated lead exposure.