| Lead service line replacement standard coming soon
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Lead service line replacement standard coming soon

By Ann Espinola

Engineers are putting the final touches on AWWA’s newest standard, the first ever to cover the  complexities of lead service line replacement.

“It gives utilities good guidance, information for the work, communicating with their customers, flushing, and then follow up testing and verification,” said Paul Olson, AWWA’s senior manager of standards.

This will be AWWA’s 179th standard. For more than 100 years, the Association has developed voluntary standards of minimum requirements, materials, equipment, and practices used in water treatment supply. They are used by thousands of manufacturers, distributors, and facilities worldwide to ensure the highest quality products and service.

Publication is expected in December or January. 

Work on the Replacement and Flushing of Lead Services Lines standard began in late 2015, just before the Flint lead-in-drinking-water crisis burst into the national consciousness. It comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule.

Best practices

The standard was developed by the 16 members of the AWWA Standards Subcommittee on Lead Service Lines and was approved by the AWWA Standards Committee on Distributions Systems Operations and Management.

“It is intended to provide a practical baseline approach towards the total replacement of lead service lines and subsequent flushing and testing,” said Andrew J. Weiss, a member of both the subcommittee and Standards Committee on Distribution Systems Operations and Management.

The new standard “gathers the existing practices and best knowledge out there and documents that in a format and in an AWWA consensus," said Olson, pictured at right.

It has received preliminary approval from the American National Standards Institute, which signifies that it meets the institute’s essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process.

Standard specifics

Known as ANSI/AWWA C810, Replacement and Flushing of Lead Services Lines covers five key areas:

Locating and replacing lead service lines
Partial lead service replacements
Communicating with customers

The first area describes techniques for locating lead service lines, including testing the water, reviewing records, and on-site verification.

“You can excavate down to the pipe and take a look at it,” Olson said. “You can even have the customer carefully scrape the line, and if it reveals a shiny silver color, it is an indicator you may have lead.

“Once you’ve located lead service lines, the standard gives you several techniques for replacing them, including fully digging up the line to take it out. There are a couple of trenchless options where you can excavate at the connections and pull the pipe out through the ground without digging all of it up. You can also leave the pipe in place, abandon it, and drill a new hole beside it and put in a new pipe next to it.”

Another section gives utilities guidance on how to handle partial lead service line replacements.

“The standard continually recommends avoiding partial replacement, if possible,” Olson said. “It can cause more problems than it solves. You’re getting rid of some lead, but in the process, you’re disturbing the system and may be stirring up more lead than if you had just left the whole thing alone.”

The standard also suggests prioritizing lead service line replacement projects. Items to consider include any lead service line that is physically disturbed by dig-ins, excavations, repairs, or smaller activities, existing partial lead service line replacements, and lead service lines supplying schools, day care centers, or other “sensitive populations” as defined by the EPA. Four other priorities are also outlined.

A short section covers how to communicate with customers about planned lead service line replacement projects – 45 days prior is recommended – as well as on-site utility point-of-contact during construction, and post-construction instructions on customer flushing, use of point-of-use filter or bottled water, water sampling, and testing.

The bigger communications picture – even beyond the guidelines in the new standard -- is “to build consensus among your customers for the value of what you are doing,” said Randall Roost, a member of the subcommittee. “That is the real message – to meet with your customers, discuss what the issues are and do it in a public forum. Once you do that, then the funding becomes easier because you have buy-in from the public.”

The standard covers flushing after replacement and notes it should be completed before the meter is connected using a “jumper,” or straight pipe in place of the meter.

“The straight pipe will allow for a higher velocity flush and protects the meter from potential damage from lead pipe and other construction-related fragments,” the standard notes. “Flush at full velocity for at least 10 minutes. Following completion of flushing by the utility, the customer shall flush the interior premise plumbing….”

The final section recommends utilities document replacement of the lead service line by taking a picture of the home with house number, and recording the length and material of the pipe used, the method of installation, and other specifics.

Revisions expected

The draft of the standard has been approved by AWWA’s Standards Council and Board of Directors. Before final approval by ANSI, the standards committee must resolve public comments related to flushing times, requirements for testing, and communicating with the public, Olson said.

This is the first edition of the standard, which will be regularly revised.  Standards are typically updated every five years.

“Since this one is new, and we’re getting a lot of feedback on it, it will probably be revised more often than a five-year cycle," Olson said.

Do you have a comment or story idea for Connections? Contact Ann Espinola at aespinola@awwa.org.