Tisbury wants a full count of lead service lines

New regulation will require the replacement of lead water lines upon home sale.

Tisbury officials are proposing a new regulation that would require the replacement of privately owned lead service lines upon the transferring of property ownership. —Rich Saltzberg

Tisbury’s board of health is proposing new regulations on water service lines in order to assist the town in documenting the prevalence of lead pipes on private property.

The proposed regulation, which will be discussed in depth at an upcoming public hearing, would require Tisbury homeowners looking to sell their property to replace any existing lead water service lines.

Already in the works are federal regulations that ask municipalities to replace any potentially hazardous service lines containing lead; Tisbury officials say that by logging properties that currently have lead water lines connecting to the town’s mains, the town will be closer to reaching its goal of completely eliminating all lead lines. 

While the town’s water mains are lead-free, there are still a number of private properties that have outdated lead water lines, Tisbury water superintendent James Cleary says; the exact number is unclear, making logging them more important. 

He said any lines from the Seventies or earlier run the risk of containing lead; a number 

have already been replaced by homeowners. 

Additionally, every three years, the town tests service lines of around 30 Tisbury properties, including the schools, in order to get an idea of the town’s service line distribution. 

But “it’s hard to judge what’s left out there,” Cleary said. The new regulation “helps us find out where they are, so we can get rid of them.”

He added that if lead were to be detected in any town-owned lines or mains, the water department would address the problem the same way — by replacing them with new pipes. 

The regulation will also aid in raising awareness of risks associated with lead among Tisbury homeowners, town officials say.

Though testing of some of the properties with lead service lines hasn’t necessarily indicated a high amount of lead, town health agent Maura Valley says, “Any amount of lead that you can prevent from being ingested is a good thing.”

Per the draft regulation, Tisbury Water Works will be checking to determine whether a property has existing lead lines upon issuing the final utility bill to a homeowner, before transferring ownership of the property. 

“The only way to know the extent of the issue is to have these properties checked,” Valley said, adding that getting that determination upon the selling of a house “seemed like a logical time” to get a full inventory. 

According to the proposed regulation, “prior to transfer of ownership and the establishment of a new customer account, the Tisbury Water Works must certify that the existing water service line is non-lead, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the event the service line is lead or galvanized, requiring replacement, the property owners must enter into a contract for replacement of the line on their property within six months of property transfer.”

If adopted, the new regulation would go into effect on July 1, and apply to all properties sold or transferred after that date.