Backed by $6.1 million from the federal government, city officials are planning to replace the 3,200 lead service lines that run under Malden. Within the total funding figure, $3.36 million could come from a grant supported by Congresswoman Katherine Clark, while the remaining $2.75 million will come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Although replacing lead pipes has been a longstanding objective, Mayor Gary Christenson said it has been no easy task. “A consistent obstacle in achieving this goal is the dual ownership of water service lines,” he said. “The city owns the line from the water main to the curb and the property owner owns the rest of the line that travels under their private property.”
Christenson said that in prior years residents were responsible for replacing the pipes that run under their properties. However, money has become a serious problem as of late. “We are finding a significant lack of owner-initiated lead service line replacements which suggests that, like many other Environmental Justice Communities, our residents lack the income or capital needed to afford the cost,” he said. “We are hopeful that the federal funding will help finance the replacement of both the public and private, which will in turn, remove the lead lines at a much higher rate and speed.”
Clark said nearly half of the city’s service lines are lead pipes. She also said that replacing a line can cost homeowners $3,000 to $7,000. Therefore, the intention is to provide homeowners with federal assistance that would not need to be paid back. “At this point, we’re hoping that this would be a grant,” said Clark. “We’re trying to get the money out as quickly as possible.”
Christenson said the $3.36 million from Clark’s Office will replace the public and private sections of the lines. By doing so, he said, a “significant health hazard” facing low-income residents would be eliminated.
Councillor-at-Large Stephen Winslow, City Engineer Yem Lip and Conservation Commission Chairman Isaac Slavitt will use the remaining $2.75 million from ARPA to focus on the lines that service homes with children. “The hope with using these federal monies is to build a program that can replace city and private side lead service lines within a five-year window,” said Christenson. “This would mean replacing about 400 to 500 lines per year rather than the approximately 200 we have been doing between water main work and replacements associated with property sales.”