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Tampa Water Department Takes Action in Nationwide Lead Pipe Replacement Initiative

This article from FOX 13 News focuses on the Tampa Water Department’s response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to replace lead pipes nationwide. This initiative is part of a broader effort to address the issue of lead contamination in drinking water systems across the United States.

The EPA has proposed a requirement that mandates the replacement of lead pipes within the next ten years. This proposal comes in the wake of a $15 billion infrastructure law passed to facilitate the replacement of these pipes. In response, cities across the nation, including Tampa, are inspecting the pipes that connect water treatment plants to homes.

The Tampa Water Department has been actively surveying its pipes since 2021. Sonia Quinones, a spokesperson for the department, explained that they are gathering historical data to determine the composition of the pipes. This includes reviewing construction records and plumbing regulations, particularly focusing on periods when lead was banned in the city.

On Thursday, the EPA issued lead and copper rule improvements, offering additional guidance for the revised rule that was initially released in 2021. These improvements are crucial for cities like Tampa, which has many old homes. However, the Tampa Water Department assures most homeowners that they should not be overly concerned. This confidence stems from the city’s water treatment processes, which are designed to neutralize the water, thereby reducing the risk of chemical reactions that could cause lead flakes to contaminate the water. Even in older buildings that may still have lead pipes, the treated water is expected to be safe.

The department plans to present its initial findings on the composition of its pipes to the EPA in October 2024. Meanwhile, an EPA report issued in April highlighted Florida as one of the states with a high number of lead pipes, with Texas also ranking high. However, this data has been questioned by experts and environmental groups. Erik D. Olson, the senior strategic director for health at the Natural Resources Defense Council, pointed out that the high numbers for Florida might be misleading. He explained that much of Florida’s development occurred when lead pipes were not widely used, and the EPA’s method of assuming a certain percentage of unknown service lines to be lead could be inaccurate. The EPA is expected to review this data and issue revised numbers reflecting the actual amount of lead pipes per state.