Rochester seeks community-led effort on lead removal

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As the city of Rochester engages in a $43.3 million upgrade to its water infrastructure, lead contamination plays a significant role.

The city is asking residents to help identify water service lines that may have “lead-containing materials.” Through the “Get the Lead Out Together” campaign launched this week, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans would like it to be a community-led effort.

“The city recognizes the importance of removing lead and galvanized steel service lines in our water distribution system,” he says. “Once you have identified and reported your water service line, lend a hand to a neighbor, family member, or friend that might need help to do the same. We won’t get this done overnight, but together, we can work to ensure that every resident, no matter what street they live on, has access to clean, safe drinking water.”

An estimated 21,763 external or public water service lines and 4,500 private inside water service lines potentially are in need of eventual replacement, officials say. Sixty percent of these lines are in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

With the help of residents identifying and reporting the service line that comes into their homes, the city says, it will be possible to create a comprehensive inventory and aid the replacement efforts. Residents can find out if they have an unknown water service line here. To check a water service line, residents can follow the step-by-step instructions to test and report it.

The city is currently investing significantly in lead service water line replacements and is supplementing local monies with federal funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act, officials say. Additional federal funds to provide needed resources to accelerate the effort and complete all the replacements needed will be sought as necessary.

Last December, Evans had to declare a state of emergency not only because of a winter storm, but also due to a water-main break near West Main and Ford streets. A boil-water notice was issued. It underscored the need for an upgrade to the city’s water infrastructure.

Rochester’s residents, numbering roughly 210,000, rely on Hemlock and Canadice lakes for their drinking water supply. The city also buys water from the Monroe County Water Authority’s Shoremont treatment plant on Lake Ontario. The average daily production at the Hemlock Water Filtration Plant was 36.2 million gallons, according to a 2022 water quality report. Treated water is stored in three reservoirs: Rush, Cobbs Hill and Highland Park.

Rochester has been at the forefront of preventing of lead poisoning. One of the community’s successes is the education and advocacy organization, the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, a model for communities elsewhere. In 2005, a few years after the coalition was established, Rochester passed a Local Lead Ordinance, which was one of the first laws in the nation to include lead in proactive inspections of rental housing.

Since then, the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Community Engagement Core, a member of the coalition, continues to focus on sustaining and implementing the law, studying its impact and sharing information with other communities.

In January, Evans was invited by the White House to participate in the Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement Summit in Washington, D.C. President Joe Biden aims to remove lead pipes across America.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

One thought on “Rochester seeks community-led effort on lead removal

  1. Think about this, the Rochester area is extremely fortunate to have such a pristine water supply. We take that for granted. Talk to people in California and realize just how important water is and how rules and regulations are applied to make sure not a drop is wasted. That said, it only makes sense that a clean distribution system should reflect that source of plenty. While it doesn’t sound very exciting and requires 43 million dollars plus to clean up….. that delivery system is the envy of many a city and state. Good stuff, good mission. Appreciate it!

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