Lansing's BWL pulls last lead water pipe from ground

Posted at 8:48 AM, Dec 15, 2016

A huge milestone for the City of Lansing Wednesday, as every lead water service pipe in the city has been taken out of the ground.

Lansing now joins only one other city in the country to do the same, Madison, Wisconsin.

“To have all the lead service lines removed and not have to worry about a potential issue is a weight off of everyone shoulders,” said Dick Peffley, General Manager of Lansing’s Board of Water and Light.

The project began in 2004 and began very costly.

At $9,000 and a days’ worth of labor, BWL crews dug trenches all the way up to homes and would even dig through retaining walls.

But after a year of that, the method became cheaper and not so labor intensive.

“Now we reach right in there with a cable and as we pull it back out into the street, the lead service pipe comes out and the copper pipe uncoils in the basement,” said Peffley. “We just have to hook it up to the basement meter and the hole out in the street.”

Peffley said the work now costs about $3,600 compared to $9,000 and only takes four hours to do.

Over that span of 12 years, BWL says customers rates were not affected by the replacement.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero was there as the last pipe was pulled from the ground Wednesday afternoon.

“I call it an early Christmas gift and it really is to think about the gift of clean water, what better gift is there,” said Bernero.

A weight lifted off the shoulders of Lansing residents knowing a scenario like the Flint water crisis won't be happening in the city they call home.

“We hear so much about government not working and government program that are a waste, this was government at its best,” said Bernero.

BWL has been training crews in Flint on its method of removing pipes along with providing technical support.

The utility will continue to use a phosphate anti-corrosion compound to minimize lead exposure in homes where lead-pipes may still exist.