City maps future lead line replacement

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city has a map for replacing lead services lines, now it just needs a schedule – and a way to pay for it all.

City staff presented the results of a study by Kapur and Associates, the city’s consulting engineers, on priorities for replacing lead water mains on city streets to the City Council’s Public Works and Utilities Committee Tuesday.

Director of Public Works Cathy Austin explained that the proposed list of plans would also include replacing four- and sixinch water mains with eight-inch mains.

She said the state requires the larger mains in any project but is not mandating immediate replacement.

The study and map from Kapur did not address the issue of lead service line connections on private property, Austin added.

Kapur identified some 40 street segments, ranging from a single block to several blocks long, where the city should consider replacing mains.

They further separated them into three categories or phases. Those were coordinated with streets where street work is most urgently needed as well.

Austin said the first phase is streets with four-inch water mains with previously identified sanitary sewer problems as well.

The second phase is streets that need a sanitary sewer upgrade, while the third phase would be streets that do not have as urgent a need for pavement repair or replacement.

“The phase one are the more important areas,” City Administrator Brian Yerges said.

He emphasized that the city has made it a policy to coordinate sewer and street work in one project to minimize disruption to local residents.

City staff rate streets in the city based on the need for repair every two years, Austin said, on a scale from 1 (most in need of repair) to 10.

Currently, she said, the city does not have any streets rated at 1 or 2. The worst rated streets are 3 or 4, she said, and were included in the phase one part of the Kapur study.

The total price tag for all of the projects listed by Kapur would be around $22 million, Austin told the committee.

“Right now our policy is to do one major project each year, with the focus on the lead problem areas,” Yerges added. “There are lots of other policy issues that need to be talked about.”

Council President Charles Hansen raised one of those issues when he asked about the issue of replacing lead pipe connections from city mains to private homes and properties.

Austin said the city estimates that there around 760 homes in the city which still have lead service laterals out of more than 4,000 properties in the city.

She said the city may have a more accurate count as it installs automatic metering equipment in homes in the city, replacing the current manually read water meters.

“In two years we should have a fairly good record of where our lead services are,” Austin predicted.

Replacing those private lead service lines would be the responsibility of the property owner and could be easily and most efficiently done in conjunction with a city street project.

The committee held preliminary discussion of provisions under a newly-enacted state law where the city or Plymouth Utilities can provide means for property owners to finance that cost, which Yerges estimated could be $4,000 to $6,000 per property.

Those options include city loans to property owners that would be repaid through an added assessment on the property bill or a grant and/or loan program through the utilities.

Yerges said that issue would be discussed by the council’s Finance and Personnel Committee at their next meeting March 13.

“After that, at some point we need to have more discussion as far as deciding on a policy,” Yerges said.

“I really believe we need to progress with this,” Hansen commented. “We need to be proactive in getting the lead out. Our staff has been doing a good job of staying ahead of this.”

In other action, the committee recommended – and the council later approved at their meeting – a distributed generation interconnection guide for Plymouth Utilities.

Yerges explained that the guide, part of an overall customer service guide for the utilities, outlines how Plymouth Utilities will accept excess electricity generated by individual customers through solar, wind or other power means.

He said the guide follows state Public Service Commission code on the issue.

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