The City of Newark is now being hailed as a “model city” for lead removal, after successfully completing their Lead Service Line Replacement Program (LSLR). In late 2018, the city launched a coordinated effort that resulted in the removal of 24,000 lead lines in less than three years.
While Newark is the most populous city in New Jersey with over 311,000 residents, their success offers some important lessons that can be useful to water systems of any size. Read on for three best practices for executing your own LSL replacement program.
1. Focus on strategic communications & public education right from the start
One of the smartest things the Newark team did was prioritize communication from day one. They developed a strong plan to keep residents fully informed about what they were doing and why they were doing it. They laid the groundwork for transparent communication and educated the community at every step.
Newark helped the public understand its lead problem and how their program would fix it. They communicated with residents through schools, local media, and creative campaigns. They even had city employees and civic groups out in the community spreading awareness and letting residents know when work would be done in their neighborhoods.
Things small systems can do to engage the community
Building a communications plan focused on education can help you garner community support for your LSL replacement program and ensure better outcomes.
Here are a few ways you can spread your message to residents:
- Social media posts
- Information on the utility website
- Billing inserts
- Text messages
- PTA/school board meetings
- Partnerships with local plumbing companies/contractors
- 120Water partnership
Check out our webinar Winning Strategies for Managing Through LCR: Creating Compelling Communications Strategies for more ideas and education-first communication tactics.
2. Do NOT wait to take advantage of funding opportunities
Newark would not have been able to pull off what they did in just three years without significant funding. They secured a $120 million bond to accelerate their program and ensure that replacement of residential lead lines was able to move forward without putting financial burden on property and landowners.
While your water system may or may not have access to those kinds of resources, federal funding from the recently passed infrastructure bill is available to fund LSLR programs.
The EPA is allocating $3 billion in 2022 to speed up LSL replacement, on top of the $15 billion earmarked in the bill. There may also be provisions to use funds from the $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund provided in the American Rescue Plan for LSL removal and lead faucet and fixture replacement.
How to get started on securing funding
To use this funding, you must start developing your lead service line inventory now. Waiting until the October 2024 initial deadline could mean losing out on the resources you need to comply with the Lead and Copper Rule revisions and protect public safety.
The EPA provides a number of resources to help water systems navigate where and how to access available funds. Review the EPA’s DWSRF website to learn more about its federal-state partnership or find your state’s DWSRF assistance website for information for your state.
Our 120Water funding experts are also available to help you understand available funding and get your plan in place.
Schedule a free 30-minute planning assistance session >
3. Your utility and local government must work as a team
For Newark, the cooperation of their state, county, and local governments paved the way for success. Prior to launching their LSLR project, two key pieces of legislation were passed that made their efforts possible:
- The state of New Jersey passed legislation to allow Newark to use public funds on private property for their LSLR project. This allowed them to offer LSL replacement to all residents for free.
- A “right of entry” ordinance was passed by the city council to allow LSL replacement without a homeowner’s permission, which expedited their efforts significantly. They went from replacing 5-6 lines a day to as many as 120.
How this impacts small water systems
If you don’t already have a great working relationship with your state and local governments, now is the time to start, because they can be critical partners in removing barriers and enabling your LSLR efforts.
Your rural water association can also be a great resource when meeting with government officials, and many will provide guidance and training as you build your LSLR plan.
Whether you have 30,000 residents or 3,000, by working together with your community, government agencies, and strategic partners toward a shared goal of removing lead from your drinking water, the odds of success are in your favor.
Read the full story
To learn more about how Newark executed their award-winning program, download our guide: 5 Lessons in Success from Newark’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program.