Identify & Remove Pipes

In the section Lead Health Effects you learned about how lead is a toxin that bio-accumulates over time and causes many deliterious health effects to the human body. Furthermore, health effects from lead poisoning can occur in adults as well as infants and children.

This section will give some background and terminology regarding water pipe infrastructure. Then we'll help you to identify whether lead, galvanized, or copper pipes are in the residence. We'll find out the extent of the lead pipe problem in the City of Utica and show the relatively new technology being used to remove lead service lines.

Intro to Lead Service Line Replacement Diagram and definitions of terminology used to help you visualize and understand what’s involved regarding lead service lines.

Check out this instructional video to identify the material composition of your water pipes.

If it still isn't clear to you what kind of pipes you have, maybe this video will help.

So How Many Residential Lead Pipes do we Have in Utica?

During a June 4, 2021 we had a conversation with Mohawk Valley Water Authority's (MVWA) Director of Water Quality , Phillip A. Tangorra. Mr. Tangorra believes that they're are approximately 2,500 such lines in their entire system. It should be noted here that not all of these lines would be located in the City of Utica, although most would. The City of Utica however, has given the Utica Observer Dispatch a figure of 3, 000 residential lead service lines located within its jurisdiction. So there is a significant discrepancy. Apparently, MVWA workers did not do an inventory of the types of pipes present in a residence when they had to change the water meters. In December of 2020 there was a revision of EPA's Lead & Copper rule , which requires water utilities such as MVWA to provide a public inventory of lead service lines. Fortunately, Mr. Tangorra says that commercial service lines tend to be larger and would not be lead in composition.

Although an exact number is not known, one can make some assumptions based on age, type, and location of residential homes in the city. A good indicator of lead or no lead service lines is if the structure was built pre-1950s. Many of such homes are located in the poorest sections with the greatest population of minority citizens. A word of caution regarding this generalization however, as many 1920s and 1930s bungalow and other style houses in the more affluent neighborhoods of South Utica contain lead service lines.

Removal using trenchless technology

Years ago when you had to replace your lead service line one would have to dig a long deep trench from the curb stop to the inside of the house. ( See diagram referenced above). Obviously, this would involve a considerable amount of time and expense. Not only would the contractor have to replace the pipe but a lot of time and expense would have to go into restoring and landscaping the yard. In recent years directional drilling and additional techniques have greatly reduced the cost and landscaping needed. In many cases the lead pipe is pulled out and the new lead free pipe is put in at the same time!

Here are a bunch of videos illustrating this new technology of lead pipe replacement.

Do it the easy way

Take a look at this

Why do it the old way

One more time

Our research indicates that the cost to replace a lead service line from the curb to the residence is between $3,000 and $5,000 dollars. This figure was corroborated by MVWA's Phil Tangorra. He also said that he is fairly confident that a full replacement would cost $5,000 to $6,000. By full he means from the main to the curb (MVWA lead service line) and also from the curb to the inside of the structure (residential service line). See diagram referenced above. {Keep in mind that the Utica Schools and the Mohawk Valley Water Authority will have their own pots of money to draw from to eliminate their lead issues. For example it was announced in November 2021 that the MVWA received millions of dollars to upgrade its transmission line distribution. The state set aside $3.2 million for engineering, easement and right-of-way work and the project has also been awarded $1 million in federal funding. Similar types of funding for lead removal issues are anticipated}

In the past the excuse by MVWA and city officials for not removing all lead service lines has been the cost. The City of Utica has already received a probably once in a lifetime infusion of state and federal monies (with more on the way), that could pay for the removal of all residential lead service lines many times over. In We Have The Money Now we explain why there should be no more excuses or delays.