We polled 4 experienced civil and environmental engineers and construction managers from across the firm to gather tips and lessons learned on how to build a successful LSLR program strategy.
Complying with the LCRR
“The upcoming Lead and Copper Rule Revisions [LCRR] are going to make communities address their lead service lines head on,” Brian Kearney, a program manager for the Newark LSLR program, explains. To comply with the EPA’s LCRR, utilities will be required to compile service line inventories, and if there are any lead service lines or unknowns, they will need to develop robust LSLR plans and verify any unknowns.
Service line inventories are living documents that capture how many lead service lines and service lines of unknown materials exist in your system and where they are located. “Utilities need to take stock of what they have in their distribution systems first. Once they have all that information, then they can make more informed decisions regarding their LSLR approach,” said Brian Van Nortwick, a project engineer for Trenton’s LSLR program. Inventories are instrumental in laying out phases of overall LSLR programs and capturing key data points used for prioritizing and funding.
“One thing to consider is evaluate how much verification of unknowns you want to do upfront, and how much you may want to do in parallel with your replacement program,” shares Sandy Kutzing, CDM Smith’s lead in drinking water task force leader. “If you know you're going to move into a replacement program in the near future, maybe you don't need to do as much of a verification effort up front and you can do it while you already have contractors out in the field doing replacements. If you’re considering a test pit program, you may find it more cost effective to combine it with a replacement program than to do it separately and potentially having to dig out the ground twice.”
Building a framework & making a plan
Beyond having an updated inventory, identifying your constraints is a great starting point to roll out a successful LSLR program. Answering key questions will help provide a framework to inform the overall effort: How do you want to prioritize? Who needs to be involved? What are your constraints? How much do you want to spend per year? Do you want to get it done before the LCRR goes into effect in 2024 or do you want to establish a rolling program? Are you at risk for exceeding the new LCRR trigger level? Is your program mandatory or opt-in for residents? Will the customers be charged a fee for the replacement of the private side?
To avoid complications down the road, you want to make sure the public, local elected officials, politicians, any regulatory agencies at the state and local level, public works, municipal road programs, utility companies and other affected stakeholders are included or at least informed in the early stages of planning.
“The key to a successful lead service line replacement program is really on the planning side with logistics and data management; the actual work to replace a lead service line is fairly straightforward utilizing established trenchless technologies,” describes Brian Kearney.
Engaging the community
The primary objective of a LSLRP is to protect public health and a successful program requires community participation. As Sandy Kutzing puts it, “you can’t have an effective program without community buy-in.” The community needs to understand why you’re doing this and how it benefits them—especially when components of the program like entering homes, digging holes in streets, and turning off water for the day can be disruptive but are critical components of this type of program.
“Public outreach is critical because this project isn’t like a shiny new bridge—people can’t see it,” Brian Kearney shares. “It involves clean drinking water which people already expect. Community involvement helps get the word out to make sure the community understands the project, so that when the construction crews are on their block to do the replacement, residents know what's happening, they have their meter accessible and they're letting the contractors in to get the work done with minimal disturbance.”
Choosing the right tools
It’s helpful to set up a data storage system in advance that can communicate with other tools you’ll be using such as construction management software. We recommend it being flexible enough to make changes as you proceed but try your best to capture all of the information you want to track starting on Day 1 and using the experience gained from other programs regarding the different scenarios you may come across. Having program management software with geographic information systems (GIS) capabilities to capture and share project data—from existing public records and pre- and post-construction photos, to resident information and sampling results—will help effectively manage the program and streamline reporting and communication requirements.
“GIS can be used to predict length of service lines,” shares Colleen Heath, a distribution expert who has worked on several small-scale programs in New England. “It can be used to create maps showing other municipal projects in the area to create efficiencies during construction and can be exported into Excel to expedite the repetitive process of tracking replacements.”