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Steubenville residents asked to help water department get a handle on lead water service lines

STEUBENVILLE — City residents are being asked to help the water department get a handle on lead water service lines in Steubenville.

Letters are being sent to all residents to assist city crews in documenting where those lead private service lines are, Water Superintendent Jim Jenkins said.

“This information will assist us to complete the Ohio EPA mandated location inventory database and mapping of the lead in our water system,” he said. “This is city wide. We sent out over 8,100 mailers with an informational letter and a pre-paid postage postcard for the resident to complete and return to us.”

Exposure to lead in service lines can pose health risks over a long period of time, Jenkins said.

“We currently use a chemical called orthophosphate to protect the water from lead absorbing into the water,” Jenkins said. “Once we create the location database of the lead lines we can sample more residences to ensure that this chemical is working correctly and we are providing the proper protection for our residents.”

The mailers include an informational letter describing to the resident what the city is trying to accomplish, Jenkins said.

“Also on the back of that letter are instructions for the resident on how to check the material of their service line,” he said. “Finally, (there’s) a prepaid postage postcard for the resident to fill out once the material of the line is known to mail back to us. The information requested on the post card is their address, account number if known, and check boxes to mark if their service line material is lead, copper, steel, or plastic.”

There is no cost, Jenkins said, and all residents are being asked to participate. Anyone with questions should call the filtration plant at (740) 283-6041. Likewise, elderly residents who need assistance can call the filtration plant and someone will be sent to assist them.

“The next step is dependent on the response we get from the residents,” he said. “If the majority send them back we can start our database creation and mapping. If the majority participate, we will be able to collect the (rest) with city personnel going door-to-door (to those) that didn’t respond. After that we will begin contacting residents to see if they would like to be a sample point for our lead water testing we perform to check the levels in the water.”

If they get little to no response, Jenkins said, “then we will be forced to hire a contractor to come in and go door-to-door to find this information out. We will not have the man power to go door-to-door with city personnel if little to no response is received. Hiring a contractor is not a cheap task, which is why we are asking our residents to participate.”

“This is definitely a stage project,” he added. “Right now, we are in the first stage that is building the inventory of the locations to create a master map of the lead line locations. Next we will begin to broaden our lead testing to more areas of the city where the lead lines are present. Then we will begin the stages of line replacements. If at any time during the testing our levels exceed the maximum contamination level we will be forced to implement the line replacement stages earlier at a more significant cost.”

Jenkins said he applied for a $50,000 grant through Ohio EPA to help cover the cost of the inventory and mapping.

“We’re still waiting to hear if we received that grant,” he added. “There are a lot of grant opportunities out there for lead line replacements but we have to have the inventory and mapping first, before we can apply for those grants.”

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