DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver woman is frustrated about Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program, saying the city’s failure to keep complete records could lead to tax dollar waste. Jennifer Otey says back in 2013, Denver Water replaced her lead service line pipes for free as part of a pilot program for what the agency is doing now across the entire city, called the Lead Reduction Program.
The program will ensure all homes in Denver with lead service lines – which could be as many as 84,000 – will get new pipes over the next 15 years to protect residents from lead poisoning.
But now, Otey says the city’s trying to replace her pipes again, because the agency doesn’t have complete records of the work that was done before, which she believes would be unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“When there’s already people who need it as a priority, for them to waste our taxpayer dollars, or any funds or grants they’re going to get, as a taxpayer, that really upsets me,” Otey said.
Denver Water tells CBS4 it does have records that Otey’s service line was replaced in 2013, but “it isn’t clear as to whether or not the entire line or just part of the line was replaced.”
“Sometimes previous replacements only included part of the line (for example, from the water main to the customer meter, but not from the meter to the house), so we want to make sure the entire line is lead-free before removing a property from the program,” a spokesperson for Denver Water also explained. “Partial replacements were more common before 2015.”
Asked why there aren’t records describing the totality of the work performed in 2013, the spokesperson said: “It was documented as a replacement. Before 2015, that typically meant a partial replacement, which is why she is in the Lead Reduction Program as all documents and records we have on this property indicate that only part of her service line has been replaced. Tracking and definitions look much different today under our current program than they did seven years ago. As part of our new Lead Reduction Program, which kicked of this year, we now classify replacements as all the way from our pipe in the street, past the meter and into the home.”
But Otey took photos of Denver Water crews replacing her line, and she says crews even dug through her crawl space to replace her entire pipe.
“I am 110% sure, because I witnessed everything, I was home at the time,” Otey said. “There’s no way there’s a piece of lead still from the main to my house.”
Otey says city workers at the time told her the replacement job cost around $10,000. Now she worries about the several other people who also participated in the pilot program seven years who may undergo unnecessary – and costly – pipe replacements.
“There may have been folks that moved out over time, and there wasn’t that transfer of knowledge, so it’s going to be done again, waste of money, waste of resources, when other people should be prioritized,” Otey said.
Denver Water says it is committed to ensuring all homes that could potentially have pieces of lead pipes are investigated as part of the Lead Reduction Program, writing in a written statement to CBS4: “As part of our Lead Reduction Program, we have included every property that we know for sure has a lead service line, as well as those that may – taking the most inclusive approach possible to ensure we’re able to remove every single lead line in our community over the next 15 years.
Once a property is identified for replacement, we’ll work directly with this homeowner for verification that they do in fact have a lead service line before we would do the replacement. Once we are certain that there are no lead components throughout the entire service line, which sometimes requires an additional water quality test or even a visual inspection of the service line on both sides of the meter, we’ll then remove the customer from the program and there will be no replacement. If we do confirm that there is lead in their service line, we’ll then replace it with copper at no direct cost to the customer.”
Denver Water also says, “if you’ve received information about being in Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program, please follow the information closely until we’re able to get to your home and verify if you do in fact have a lead service line, and if so, replace it at no direct cost to the property owner.”
The agency has an interactive map where you can look up to see if your home is one of the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 homes with a possible lead service line. Click here to see it.