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3 Reasons Why it is Critical to Reduce Unknown Service Lines Before October 2024

April 26, 2024
Min Read
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Are you preparing your service line inventory for the October 2024 LCRR deadline? If you have not yet started your inventory, you need to get started now.  While you may be in a position of submitting an inventory with a high level of unknowns, there are potential consequences of doing so. This article explores three key reasons why it is critical to reduce unknown service lines before the October deadline.

Why you should reduce as many unknowns as possible

When a water utility submits a service line inventory that has many unknown service lines to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the following issues may occur:

Reason 1: Public perception and health implications

Building public trust through communication is a key aspect of the LCRR and proposed LCRI. When there are many unknowns reported, residents may become concerned with the uncertainty that could impact utility reputation and lead to increased costs later. Also, these unknown service lines could pose public health risks if they contain lead. The inability to identify these lines may result in inadequate measures to address potential health hazards. 

Reason 2: Compliance concerns: Submitting an inventory of unknown service lines may raise compliance concerns regarding the utility’s ability to identify and manage requirements for reducing lead service lines in the system. The LCRR aims to reduce lead exposure in drinking water, and having unknown service lines could hinder efforts to assess and mitigate these risks.

Reason 3: Complicating replacement plans: Having an inventory with unknown service lines presents significant challenges for water utilities in planning lead pipe replacements. It leads to inefficient resource allocation, as utilities cannot prioritize areas with lead pipes, potentially leaving communities at risk of lead exposure. An accurate inventory is also vital for community engagement, transparency, and strategic asset management, enabling informed decisions about maintenance and replacement schedules to safeguard public health.

In the end, “known” beats “unknown”

In summary, submitting a service line inventory with a high number of unknown service lines indicates potential challenges in managing water quality and compliance with regulatory standards. It underscores the importance of thorough record-keeping, proactive assessment, and risk management practices by water utilities to safeguard public health and comply with regulatory requirements. The good news is that through predictive modeling, utilities can rapidly reduce unknowns and streamline field work to ensure timely, accurate inventories and replacement plans.

A few myths do surround lead service line inventory and its replacement, but you can find more information around developments in this space via EPA's revised LCR and the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI). You can also read EPA's factsheet for developing and maintaining service line inventories here.

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