Now that WASA has discovered widespread lead contamination, EPA guidelines require the agency to replace 7 percent of its lead pipes annually, which is estimated to cost $10 million to $20 million a year. The agency will focus on neighborhoods where lead contamination is the highest, said Michael Marcotte, WASA's chief engineer.
WASA first noticed problems with lead contamination during routine testing of about 50 houses from July 2001 to June 2002, Marcotte said. The agency noted the problem in its August 2002 report to the EPA and began to comply with the EPA's guidelines, which required WASA to replace lead pipes and to inform the homeowners of the dangers of lead.
Marcotte said WASA replaced 400 pipes at a cost of $3 million last year. But last summer, the agency also began conducting more widespread tests. If the sample size increased but the number of homes with lead contamination remained small, WASA would have met the EPA standard without having to replace many service lines.
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