The City of Fort Worth is in the midst of a massive undertaking to find and replace all of the old lead water service lines that run beneath the streets.
There is a network of 3,400+ miles of water lines in Fort Worth; laid end-to-end that would be longer than the width of the entire United States. And there are more than 250,000 individual connections between those lines and individual buildings like businesses and houses.
The Fort Worth Water Department maintains a detailed mapping system of the pipes. But the maps do not reflect what material the service line pipes are made of.
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There is currently a lead service line replacement project underway east of Downtown in the Vintage Riverside neighborhood near North Sylvania Avenue and Race Street. The process is expected to last until spring 2018.
At a recent community meeting to update residents on the status of the project, Vintage Riverside Neighborhood Association President Belinda Norris noted that many of the people she has spoken with were satisfied with the effort of the Water Department.
“I think the biggest concern with some people [is they] didn't know there were still lead pipes,” Norris said.
That is part of the Water Department’s concern – it is unknown exactly how much lead there is underground until and unless city staff gets in there and checks it out.
“Right now we are trying to figure out how much do we have that is lead and then plan to get rid of it,” said Mary Gugliuzza, Director of Media Relations for the Water Department.
Water Department staff is approximately 40 percent of the way through a project to physically inspect the water lines, and that project is expected to last approximately seven more years.
The city has dedicated millions of dollars each year to replace the lead service lines, according to Gugliuzza.
“But it is not an unlimited amount of money because that does impact rates, since the only thing that funds what we do are the rates our customers pay,” Gugliuzza said, indicating the limitations her department must work with since no tax dollars are earmarked for water line replacement.