Lead exposure risks for kids
In its efforts to rid the city of lead pipes that carry drinking water, Fort Worth's Water Department has so far found only 11 properties to have lead on the customer side of the meter, but about 1,500 lead lines on the city's side, according to latest figures.
In the wake of the 2015 water crisis in Flint, Mich., where dangerous levels of lead was found in the drinking water — and in advance of a new, sophisticated water meter system called My H2O the city is moving to — the Water Department two years ago began an aggressive program to inventory more than 255,000 meters at residential and commercial properties.
“That changed the conversation for the federal government; it changed the conversation for the state, but most importantly it changed the conversation for public works systems and Fort Worth paid attention,” said Stacy Walters, the department's regulatory environmental administrator, said of the Flint crisis.
Because lead pipes were banned in 1986, the inventory work has focused on properties within Loop 820, where the bulk of the city's older housing stock is. About 97 percent of the properties inside Loop 820 have been looked at, or about 54 percent overall, Walters said.
So far, inventory crews have found lead pipes on the city's side of 1,144 water meters, while a few hundred more with lead pipes were discovered in the course of responding to maintenance issues, or less than 1 percent of the total number of meters, she said.
The city has since spent $12 million to replace 872 service lines. In June, the City Council is expected to approve an additional $1.4 million to replace several more.
The city is responsible for replacing service lines on its side of the meter and is telling the property owner that lead was found. When crews find lead on the customer side, the city is telling the property owner, but it's up to them to replace the line. The city has no record of what the 11 property owners where the lead was found have done.
Lead is not found in water when it leaves the water reclamation facility and can only pick it up from service pipes or pipe fittings.
With the exception of downtown, Walters said city crews expect to finish its meter inventory inside Loop 820 in about a month, but it will likely take about two years to finish the remaining. Downtown will likely be one of the last areas inventoried, she said.