November 20, 2022

Ready to make Washington, DC Lead Free by 2030

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) has selected the Lead Free Group, a joint venture (LFG JV) between CDM Smith and Ramboll to manage the DC Lead Service Line Replacement Program. This program was launched to accelerate replacement of approximately 28,000 public and private lead service lines (LSL) in the district by 2030, while prioritizing LSL replacement for vulnerable populations and historically underserved communities.

As LSLs continue to pose a threat to public health, DC Water developed a comprehensive strategy to eliminate the harmful service lines in the district with an 8-year plan. Lead Free DC is one of the flagship programs in the U.S. following the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR), with many other public utilities now enacting similar service line inventory and LSL replacement efforts nationwide.

DC Water selected CDM Smith and Ramboll to complete the 8-year project including program management, public outreach and communication efforts, design, and construction management services to support the utility’s goal of “Lead Free by 2030.”

“Achieving the Lead Free DC vision requires a comprehensive, nuanced plan that not only improves on what we do today, but also details what would be required from us, the city, and our customers to accelerate replacement efforts, and to do it in a way that incorporates water quality and customer equity needs,” said David L. Gadis, CEO & General Manager at DC Water.

Supporting social sustainability

Although the use of lead piping was phased out by the 1980s, utilities still face the burden of replacing LSLs, with the cost of replacing pipes on private property often falling on the homeowners themselves. Expensive replacement costs have stood as an obstacle for several of DC Water’s customers, and disproportionally for underserved communities in the city.

To address this challenge, DC Water is securing federal funding to address private property issues. The utility also developed a prioritization model to use an equitable and data-driven approach to identify high-priority LSL replacements. This model determines replacement areas based on several factors, including vulnerable populations and underserved communities where potential health impacts of lead services are at the highest exposure levels (e.g., children, expectant families, median income below the federal poverty level).

“We are proud to be part of this great and important initiative which supports safe drinking water and social sustainability, and we will do our best to make it a success that can serve as inspiration for future lead pipe replacement projects across the country,” says Jeff Rogers, Country Market Director for Ramboll Water in the U.S.

“The fast identification and replacement of lead service lines is vital to the health of the DC community, especially for vulnerable populations. The LFG JV team of CDM Smith and Ramboll brings together nationwide best practices, local experience and the expertise needed to deliver the program by 2030,” said Sogol Gremi, CDM Smith principal. “We’re proud to work with DC Water to help them achieve their water quality goals and are excited to partner with Ramboll to execute a successful and expedited program.”