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Albany Water Department Offering Reimbursement To Replace Lead Lines By 2040

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The Albany Water Department has launched a new program to aid homeowners in lead service replacements, part of an effort to eliminate lead service pipes in the city by 2040.

Officials say about 40 percent of homes in the city are hooked up to lead service lines. Water Commissioner Joe Coffey says Albany's Lead Service Replacement Program provides assistance to anyone – homeowners, landlords, and renters.

“This is the initial run at the program. So we're starting from like ground zero. And we wanted to get something out there to start with. So right now, if there's a leak on a water service and it's lead, the service has to be replaced, in its entirety. Before we had the city code changed, so if there's any kind of water service, the whole service needs to be replaced. Before you'd only replace half of it either from the house to the shut off, or the shut off to the main. The water department's always done from the main to the shut off, even though the homeowner owns it. Historically. We've done that.”

All homeowners with lead service lines are eligible for the grant funds – including owners of small multi-unit properties and those who do not reside in the home. Coffey notes that tenants or homeowners who cannot complete a replacement now can get free water filters if the household water sample tests show elevated levels of lead.

“If you have a leak on a water service, if you want to replace the whole water service yourself with your contractor, we’ll provide a grant of $2,000. If the leak is on the inside, and you want to replace that, we’ll give you a grant for $1,000. And then we'll replace the outside portion. That's one element of the program. The other element is some people may not have the resources to do that. So if they test or water and it's over 10 parts per billion, we'll provide them a filter at no cost, for them to use at their kitchen sink or wherever they're drinking water sources for drinking and cooking primarily.”

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a Democrat running for a third term, says the city wants all lead lines replaced by 2040.

"We need to ensure that landlords are providing safe drinking water and have access to ensure that they can keep their tenants safe. The $2,000 reimbursement grant is expected to reduce the entire cost of a replacement project by nearly half."

Sheehan says the lead problem has long had a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Residents can find out if their home has a lead service by performing a simple test that can be followed by visiting https://www.albanyny.gov/662/Lead-Service-Line

A 1.5-million-dollar state program to test for lead in drinking water is available to New York State residents. The Free Lead Testing Pilot Program (FLTPP) will provide NYS residents who are served by either a private well or public water system with an opportunity to have their
residential drinking water tested for free. The FLTPP will continue as long as funds are available. The testing will consist of two samples, a first-draw and a flush sample, per dwelling unit (i.e., house or apartment).

The easiest way to participate is to fill out a short form and e-mail it to the Bureau of Water Supply Protection (BWSP). (en español)

Alternately, you can email FreeWaterTesting@health.ny.gov directly or call the State Health Department at (518) 402-7650 to request a free drinking water lead test kit.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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