Missouri to receive $44 million in federal money to replace lead water service lines

May 6—Missouri will receive nearly $44 million to replace water service lines in the state that are made of lead. Kansas and Oklahoma will each allotted $28.65 million.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Lead Service Line Replacement funding allotments for 2024 last week. The funds are provided via President Joe Biden's Investing in America Agenda.

The EPA has set the maximum contaminant level for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure. Lead is persistent, and it can accumulate in the body over time. Children, infants and fetuses are more vulnerable to lead.

In a statement, Missouri American Water said it has replaced more than 500 lead and galvanized lines in Joplin to date, but there are many cases where the utility doesn't know what the service line is made of, and it is now building an inventory of affected lines.

"The first phase of what we're going to be doing is getting that inventory," Susan Harris, engineering manager for the lead line project, said in a December report to the Joplin City Council. "We have data on the company side of the locations, but of course we don't have that information for the customer side because we don't own that."

The company plans to invest more than $100 million in 2024 to identify and replace lead and galvanized service lines statewide. Missouri American is the largest regulated water utility in the state, serving 1.6 million people, including Joplin and many other communities.

Missouri American's action follows the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule Improvements in an effort to significantly reduce exposure to lead through drinking water. The company said the largest source of lead in drinking water is from a customer's plumbing and from the service line that runs to the house or building to pipe the water.

The replacement work will be a multiyear effort to comply with proposed rule revisions of the EPA that require the replacements by local water companies to be completed by 2030.

Company officials said there will be no cost to customers for the line replacements. The lines are those that connect from the water meter to the foundation of a house or building. It does not include the household plumbing.

Missouri American Water is emailing customers with directions on how to self-report or request an inspection of their service line. Letters will also be going out to customers with this information in July.

In its statement, Missouri American Water said properties built before 1930 have the highest likelihood of having a lead service line. After that year, it became a less-used material and was prohibited in 1988 with Missouri's adoption of the Safe Drinking Water Act.