By Dan Murphy
As lead pipes continue to be the cause of tainted water throughout Boston and the rest of the Commonwealth, Rep. Jay Livingstone of the 8th Suffolk is helping to spearhead the effort to tackle this pernicious problem.
Livingstone filed legislation over the summer to address the issue, and to create a grant program for municipalities in need of assistance to distribute funds to their residents. This compelled both the House and the Senate to take action on the issue. In July, the Massachusetts House and Senate sent to Gov. Charlie Baker “H.5065, An Act Financing the General Governmental Infrastructure of the Commonwealth,” which, according to Rep. Livingstone, included a $20 million funding authorization and language to create a new lead service- line replacement program within the treasurer’s Clean Water Trust that would distribute funds to municipalities for residents in areas of need.
In “Clean water should be a fundamental human right” – his Sept. 22 op ed piece for CommonWealth Magazine – Rep. Livingstone wrote: “This language originated in an amendment I filed that was adopted by the House when we took up the bill in May 2022 and the conference committee, led by Rep. Danielle Gregorie and Sen. Will Brownsberger, included the language in the final conference report. It was signed into law by Governor Baker in August and will create the first state-funded replacement program. I appreciate Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka and the rest of the legislature recognizing this serious issue and embracing this solution.”
Massachusetts reportedly has 220,000 lead-pipe service lines connecting homes and buildings to water mains, and according to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission’s Lead Service Map (found online at https://www.bwsc.org/environment-education/maproom/lead-service-map), more than 3,900 addresses using lead-service pipes citywide
(Lead services indicated on this map were reported based on visual inspections performed at the water meter during installation of new water meters under the Commission’s Automatic Meter Reading program, according to BWSC.)
The Environmental Protection Agency has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero, since toxic metals can be harmful to humans even at low levels. But despite this ambitious goal, a 2016 American Water Works Association survey estimated that Massachusetts had more lead service lines than all but 10 states.
“The only permanent and 100 [percent] effective solution to address this issue is the replacement of lead services lines, which costs, on average, between $3,000 and $5,000 per line,” wrote Rep. Livingstone. “This steep price makes it difficult for many homeowners to afford a replacement, although the state has begun taking concrete measures to mitigate this harm. Luckily, there are more resources than ever to help people make this change.”
Boston is among the municipalities in the Commonwealth that offers interest-free loans to those who want to replace their lead service-lines.
Moreover, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection announced the Massachusetts State Revolving Fund 2023 Intended Use Plan on July 1.
“This revolving fund offers affordable loan options to cities and towns to improve water supply infrastructure and drinking water safety, while addressing issues such as watershed management priorities, stormwater management, and green infrastructure,” wrote Rep. Livingstone. “The Clean Water Trust, also based on federal funding, is offering grants to municipalities to figure out how many lead service lines exist within their borders.”