By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The state-mandated lead water line replacements program has a number of different approaches to meet its needed goals, Chief of Staff Mark Guido said April 20 at the Mayor’s Briefing.
He said the partial replacements, which have already been connected from the water main to the sidewalk area, still have lead water lines going to the house.
Guido said a contractor has provided a bid of $3,200 average per line, whereas city personnel can do the work for $2,300 per line, which may decrease even more as they become more experienced. However, he said at present, city employees cannot do the work as quickly as the contractor’s team.
He said reimbursement may be available to residents who contract the replacement themselves.
Department of Public Works Director Jim Murray said he recommends that residents who don’t want to wait for the city to replace their lead line to be allowed to be reimbursed $2,000 for a partial replacement they contract out sooner themselves.
He said for the full line replacement for the 8,000 identified residences he would recommend a $2,800 reimbursement, since the lead water line must be replaced to the street.
“It costs us about $800 per house to get the line over to the sidewalk,” Murray said. “And then there would be the $2,000 to get it into the house.”
He said the state has told DPW administrators that any resident who wants to get off the waiting list and replace the lead line on their own may do so, but the community has no obligation to refund part or all of the cost of the lead line replacement.
“We just think that would be a fair thing to do,” Murray said. “We would like the program to at least get consideration from the state to do it over a 30- to 40-year period.”
He said that currently, 2040 is the year that the city is expected to have all of the lead line replacement done. Murray said that, starting in the 1990s, when the city replaced water mains, it replaced the lead service line with a copper line up to the sidewalk.
“We didn’t have an obligation before this last couple of years to replace it all the way into the house,” Murray said. “Because it was considered their property, we didn’t go any further. Now we are mandated to go back and finish those partials that we left in place.”
Murray said if grants or other funding sources become available, the city could accelerate the lead line replacement schedule.
He said communities with infrastructure similar to Dearborn are finding it is less expensive to replace the lead lines with city employees, as opposed to outside contractors.
“We would save about $4 to $6 million over 20 years if we did it that way on just the partials,” Murray said.
He said he would prefer to do the full lead line replacements with a contractor, while they are replacing water mains across the city, over the next 30 to 40 years, which will replace the 8,000 identified lead water lines.
“If we want to accelerate it, and if grants that are becoming available, like the stimulus package, or with this new Biden initiative on infrastructure, if we could get a good price and they would pay for it, we could accelerate the program for the partials, and even for the full water line replacements, if the money is available and is being offered to stimulate the economy and jobs in the United States,” Murray said. “But at this juncture, we won’t know that for at least three to four months.”