News Feature | August 7, 2018

$177 Million Job: Replacing Indiana's Lead Service Lines

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Indiana American Water says it will cost $177 million over two decades to replace lead water service lines across the state.

The utility announced in July that Indiana’s utility regulator approved its plan, according to the Associated Press.

“The plan estimates that as many as 50,000 lead service lines may have been present at one time at locations served by the company around Indiana. Similar to other distribution system improvements, the costs of lead service line replacement will be included in future rates,” the report stated.

“The subsidiary of American Water is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, serving about 1.3 million people. Indiana American Water estimates it will replace all lead service lines by no later than 2042 and possibly as soon as 2028,” the report continued.

There are thousands of lead services lines across the state, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

“Records show Indiana American Water has up to 50,748 lead service lines running from distribution mains to customer meters, of which approximately 65 percent are in Northwest Indiana, primarily Gary,” the report stated.

“Company officials told the IURC that replacing the customer-owned water line at the same time as the company replaces its lead pipes will save money, minimize service disruptions and ensure no lead remains in the water system,” it continued.

Lead is widespread in the water system because many companies used it in the first part of the 1900s, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

“The metal was banned from use in drinking water systems in June 1986, but use continued of brass and chrome-plated fixtures that can leach lead,” the report stated.

Customers will be responsible for the equipment after their lead lines are replaced.

“Under its proposed plan, Indiana American would replace customer-owned lead lines with permission of property owners. After replacement, customers would retain financial responsibility for the equipment,” The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.