August 26, 2019

Due to an Emergency Repair of a Sewer Line, Partial Lead Service Line Replacements Were Conducted on Some Newark Ave. Homes in Elizabeth Without Notice. Partial lead-service line replacement is linked with higher lead levels in homes & across the system.

Elizabeth, NJ — Monday, August 26, 2019 — There has been construction on Newark Ave. in Elizabeth this past week. This work, water-line replacement, was conducted on an emergency basis to accommodate a sewer line replacement. One homeowner on Newark Ave. by Fairmont Ave., who declined to be named, said that he was “not informed in advance of the work,” and that he only found out about the work when “construction workers told him to move his car.”

The homeowner said he wasn’t told anything, “they just tore up the street and sidewalk.” It was confirmed by Liberty-American Water employee Brendan Devlin that the work done stopped at the curb and that existing lead service lines from the curb to the homeowner’s house were not replaced.

What was conducted at this homeowner’s house, and presumably the other homes along Newark Ave. is called a partial lead service line replacement. This is the replacement of a portion of the lateral service line from the water main to the building that is the responsibility of the water company or municipality. This is a process where, generally, a copper line is run from the water main and welded with a remaining portion of lead pipe that serves the building. In this case, plastic lines were installed with a brass connection to the existing lead service line. Sadly, this work does not actually make the home safer from lead contamination – it increases the risk. The new brass coupling connecting the existing lead pipe, through a process called galvanic corrosion, may increase the amount of lead in the water. 

Generally, when service lines are being replaced, homeowners are given the opportunity to replace the portion of the line that is their responsibility. According to the homeowner no such offer was given to him. He stated his concern for his upstairs tenants who have young children.

American-Liberty Water should be offering residents the opportunity to fully replace lead service lines when work like this is being done and should avoid partial lead line replacements. Additionally, given the increased potential for public health consequences, not informing residents of the risks and/or not giving them the option to replace the whole line is a questionable if not potentially negligent practice.

The practice of conducting partial lead service line replacements is concerning given the known risks surrounding partial lead service line replacements. It is even more concerning that American-Liberty Water did not tell the homeowners that there are short-and long-risks, including lead contamination, from the work, or offer full service line replacements to homeowners.

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