DENVER — The coronavirus has impacted Denver Water’s $50 million mega project to remove lead service lines that feed water into tens of thousands of homes in Denver.
“Due to COVID-19 we have made some adjustments,” spokesperson Jose Salas told Denver7 during an online interview.
The program’s goal is to replace between 64,000 and 84,000 lead service water lines that run between Denver Water’s meters and homes or properties.
“Obviously no lead is safe. That’s why we’re working on Lead Reduction Program to eliminate lead at its source, which is lead service lines,” Salas said.
The spokesperson stressed that water itself that comes from Denver Water’s plants does not contain lead. But water flowing through lead pipes can sometimes pick up contaminants.
The program is slated to take 15 years to complete, includes the removal of those lead lines at no cost to the customer, along with a change in pH of the water to make it less likely to pick up lead from the pipes, and the purchase and distribution of approximately 100,000 water pitchers with filters to Denver residents who may have lead lines.
“We’re trying to provide customers with a safe and reliable way to drink water until we know for sure if that home has lead service lines or not,“ Salas said.
Those pitchers and the pH adjustment were always part of the lead reduction plan. One thing that wasn’t: COVID-19. The virus and subsequent stay-at -home orders caused that team at Denver Water to focus on preparing for removal work instead of doing that removal work in some cases.
“We have developed work up until the point that we have to shut off water,” Salas said, explaining that the decision was made not to turn customers' water off during a pandemic in order to complete work.
Salas said that crews have still been doing lead removal of lines at commercial buildings that may be empty because of health orders, as well as schools. Most residential work has been limited to gathering homeowner consent forms for work to be done in the future and marking sidewalks with locations of water meters or service lines.
“Just getting as much ready so if allowed, we can do the work that needs to take place,” Salas said.
The time frame of when residential work and actual removal of lead lines can resume will be based on local health orders. The only timeline that Denver Water gave regarding when lines will be removed is the overall project goal of completion in the next 15 years.
Denver Water customers who want to know if they have lead service lines can use the interactive map located at denverwater.org/lead.