The project to replace lead service lines in Trenton has officially begun. Construction crews were already at work before Mayor Reed Gusciora hosted a press conference Thursday morning.
With the Delaware River as its source, Trenton Water Works supplies drinking water to five municipalities: Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence, Hamilton, and Hopewell. But in the years before 2019, it faced several violations for lead content.
Service lines run from the main at the street to the home. But old service lines often have lead, and years of corrosion means it can leech into water. In Trenton, TWW estimates about 37,000 homes have these lead service lines.
The total cost to service all 37,000 homes could be more than $150 million, even upwards of $200 mil, according to the city.
Thursday kicked off phase one of this project, which will cover 2,600 homes at a cost of $15 million. The state has provided funding to cover $9 million.
Phase one will take one year. Acting Director pf the Department of Water and Sewer Stephen Picco says they hope to expand aggressively.
“With the introduction of the zinc orthophosphate and the initiation of the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, TWW has embarked on its commitment to remove all lead lines in the system within the next five years,” said Picco.
The city has hired two contractors to physically replace the lines. Replacing these service lines could cost a homeowner $2,000 to $5,000. The Lead Service Line Replacement Program offers complete replacement to the street for $1,000 per home.
“Normally the city owns the pipe to the curb. The home owner owns the curb into the house. We’re still replacing up to the house, so we’re going to take care of a lot of the headaches for the homeowners.”
Low-income homeowners will have payment options, including financing.
More than 7,000 homeowners have signed up for the project. Work will be conducted on a first come, first serve basis.
Trenton has also taken other measures to protect its citizens. Gusciora stated bringing TWW to nearly full employment has helped considerably, as about 40% of positions were vacant when he took office.
In all of 2019, the treatment plant received zero citations for violations, according to Chief Engineer David Smith. He believes water quality will continue to improve in 2020.