York Water Company offers free replacement of homeowner lead service lines

YORK, Pa. -- York Water Company officials said they'll remove and replace the lead service lines that their customers may have in their homes.

The goal is to help customers get the lead out of their drinking water.

York Water Company is working on getting the lead out of 1,600 company owned service lines from the water main to the curb.

York Water Company president Jeff Hines said "on the customer side, we're not sure, because we didn't put them in, the builder put them in, so that's our first challenge."

York Water began replacing its lead service lines after finding higher lead levels in the system. Company officials said if they're replacing their lines, they might as well replace their customers' lines while they're at it.

Before it could do that, it needed the 'OK' first from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Gladys Brown said "we wanted to make sure that they had the opportunity to do that, especially since they had to be in compliance with the DEP consent order."

Not only will York Water replace the lead service lines, but the company also will do it for free.

"Does the customer have that money up front to replace all of that, at that time, when they're digging and replacing everything? Probably not, so this makes it easier," Brown said.

Customers who live in houses built before 1940 should give their lines the 'key and magnet' test on the pipe in front of the meter.

"First you scrape the line, to see what color it is. Scrape it with a key gently. Now this one is copper. It's orange in color," Hines said.

There is another test for those who realize they don't have copper pipes.

"Scrape this, and you see it comes up kind of silvery gray," Hines said.

"And if you take a magnet, and see if it's magnetic, and if it's not, that would be a lead line," Hines added.

Replacing a lead service line also is relatively as simple as the test.

"They actually have a little connector, that they connect the existing lead line to the copper line, They pull the lead line out, and the copper line follows in behind it, so they don't have to dig up the sidewalk or the yard," Hines said.

"Our goal at the end of this process, to be completely lead free for our service lines, customer, company, all out of the system," Hines added.

Some may wonder if there is such a thing as completely free, and that the cost of replacing the home lead service lines could be passed on to all customers.

"Anything that they have to do, in terms of recovering costs, they have to make a filing before us. They have to give people the opportunity to participate in that," Brown said.

York Water estimates the overall cost to be about $500,000, which is minimal compared to other projects on the books costing more than $10 million.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will allow York Water to replace up to 400 of its customer service lines per year.

Customers who already replaced their lead service lines, and within the last four years, may be eligible for a rebate.

Customers who do the key and magnet test, and find out they have lead pipes in the home, should contact York Water.