When There’s Lead Underground
When there is a problem with lead in drinking water, service lines are the most likely culprit. Service lines are like tiny straws that carry water from a utility’s water main, usually running below the street, to each building.
In older cities, many of them in the Midwest and Northeast, these service lines can be made of pure lead.
Wherever lead service lines are in place, there is a risk of water contamination. The toxic metal can leach into the water whenever something jostles the pipes, like nearby construction, a heavy truck coming down the road or when the water just sits still for too long.
Civil engineer Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who helped document the lead problems with water in Flint, calls lead service lines “ticking time bombs.”