Detroit to replace 5,000 lead service lines this year, ramping up to 10,000 per year starting in 2024

  • Mayor Duggan and DWSD Director Gary Brown said while testing shows Detroit’s drinking water is safe, it’s time to dramatically speed up lead service line replacements
  • Lead service line replacements will be in the areas of the city with density of housing built in 1945 and older, density of children and seniors, and low-income Census tracts
  • City seeking funding and building contractor capacity with goal of replacing all lead service lines ahead of state deadline of 2038

Last fall, DWSD announced it had amassed a $100 million fund that will allow it to dramatically speed up the replacement of its estimated 80,000 lead services lines in the city – at no additional cost to its customers. It is using the funding to replace 5,000 lines this year and move to 10,000 annually beginning next year. 

Lead service lines are what carry treated water from the public water main to the house. The Michigan Lead & Copper Rule, the most stringent in America, as of 2018 requires all lead service lines to be replaced over the next 20 years. Detroit houses built before 1945 likely have a lead service line unless the pipe was replaced in recent years.

DWSD is starting this next phase of lead line replacements in areas that:

  • have a density of housing built in 1945 or earlier
  • significant amount of children and seniors in the area
  • are in low-income Census tracts.

“We have an opportunity thanks to the Whitmer and Biden administrations to speed up the vitally important lead service line replacement,” said Mayor Duggan. “Thanks to the great work already done by the team at DWSD, we are ready to speed up replacement of these lines in our most vulnerable communities and our goal is to beat the state-mandated deadline of 2038 to replace all lead lines.”

Brown said annual testing shows Detroit’s drinking water is well within state and federal safety guidelines. He added, “While there is no evidence to suggest lead service lines are a contributor to elevated blood lead levels in Detroit, they do pose a risk. Thanks to federal funding, we can accelerate the pace of lead service line replacements and have no impact on the water rates.”

Brown said that the influx of funding means DWSD will be able to ramp up its current program from 700 replacements per year to 5,000 this year starting in Claytown. Previously, since 2018, DWSD replaces lead service lines while on the same street replacing the water main. The additional funding is now enabling the department to replace individual service lines outside of DWSD’s capital improvement program, have no impacts on rates, no cost to residents, and speed up the pace.

The $100M for Detroit’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program is as follows:

  • $75M American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds through Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)
  • $10M Michigan Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF)
  • $5M Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WIIN grant
  • $10M DWSD Capital Improvement Program

The cost of residential lead service line replacement, which requires excavation at the curbstop valve and uses the boring method to install the new line to the home, is about $8,000-10,000 per house due to inflation.  Brown said that much more revenue will be needed to replace all the estimated 80,000 lead service lines in Detroit and his staff is currently pursuing additional funding sources.

“With an existing and robust lead service line replacement program and issuing our first $25 million contract specific to this work, we have the ability to accelerate with federal funding,” said Gary Brown, DWSD director. “We thank our federal and state partners for providing the bulk of the funding. Outside funding is essential to have no impact on water rates.”

While on the street replacing the water main, DWSD has 100% compliance with homeowners or adult occupants allowing it to replace the full lead service line since access to the home is required. This is largely due to a comprehensive community outreach effort that begins at least 40 days in advance of construction.

REPORTERS/EDITORS/PRODUCERS: DWSD has footage and photos from lead service line replacement. View and download at:

Addressing contractor capacity and equity Within 30 days, DWSD will post a request for bids at $45 million which will allow small contractors to bid on a project as low as 250 pipe replacements, and larger contractors to bid for up to 2,500 lead service line replacements. The bid package will be posted on

To increase contractor capacity and equity, and utilize the $100 million for lead service line replacement, DWSD has been actively engaging with potential contractors across the city, state and even surrounding states to support this goal. And, the department will continue to ensure contractors comply with Mayor Duggan’s Executive Order on 51% of the hours worked need to be Detroit residents.

DWSD’s Opportunity and Inclusion Director Tiffany Jones looked at contractors that have already completed work on similar lead service line replacement projects, including Benton Harbor, Flint and Eastpointe, as well as contractors for the City of Detroit Basement Backup Protection Program. So far, she organized 15 meetings, representing more than 50 organizations. The meetings provide an overview, including the procurement process, and allow the opportunity for contractors to ask questions.

Through this effort, DWSD has secured the services of Five Star Energy Services of Milwaukee, Wis. for the first $25 million contract. It has committed to hiring and training Detroiters and is leasing property on the westside of the city for equipment and office staging purposes. Five Star has done lead service line replacements in Flint, Benton Harbor, Denver and other cities.

Hiring City crews to replace lead lines DWSD will begin hiring 17 field service technicians to create three in-house crews to replace lead service lines. This work will support the 5,000 replacement goal this year and will supplement work done by contractors. The goal is determine the most efficient use of the available dollars by studying the work of the contractors and the employee crews. The field services technician position is already posted at and DWSD is accepting applications.

How it works - Detroit’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program In 2018, DWSD began replacing lead service lines as part of its capital improvement program when on the same street replacing the water main. Extensive outreach, including neighborhood meetings and information packets, to the owner/occupant is done prior to construction.

The city is responsible for the existing portion of the service line from the public water main to the curbstop (turn-on/off valve typically in the front yard). The property owner is responsible for the service line from the curbstop to inside the house. Prior to a service line replacement, contractors excavate the curbstop to visually verify the pipe material. Lead and galvanized pipes are replaced with copper.

When a lead service line is verified, DWSD gets owner or adult occupant permission (including tenant) to replace the full lead service line, including the private portion and get access to connect it to the home plumbing through the water meter. DWSD warranties the work for one year before the property owner resumes ownership of their portion. Under this program, there is no cost to the property owner to have the pipe replaced.

The DWSD lead service line replacement program is featured in this video.

Residents are encouraged to watch this video to determine if you have a lead service line and put yourself on a wait list for replacement at

Extensive community outreach DWSD estimates it spends about $43 per house on community outreach on streets where lead service line replacement will take place. A nine-page information packet with a folder was created specific to this Detroit program that has a project notice, frequently asked questions, flushing information and homeowner/occupant agreement to authorize replacement of the private portion of the lead service line. Extensive community outreach and education are done to ensure residents are aware of the program and know the process from start to finish. The packets are hand delivered to the house, not mailed.

Community meetings in advance of construction are held in a nearby park, median, vacant lot, school, place of worship, or virtually. One was recently held at a city park in Claytown in advance of lead service line replacement starting there on May 15.

A pitcher filter and cartridge are also delivered to all houses on the street of the water main replacement as a precautionary measure, and for individual lead service line replacement. This action was initiated in 2017 after the Flint water crisis. Pitcher filters were chosen since homes have different faucet fixtures. The filters are the type that are designed for lead reduction.

The facts about lead in drinking water The water leaving Detroit water treatment plants, operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), does not contain lead, but lead can be released into drinking water from lead service lines and home plumbing as the water moves from the water mains to your tap. Beginning in 1945, Detroit stopped allowing the installation of lead piping for water service lines. Homes before 1945 are most likely to have a lead pipe that connects the home to the water main, known as a lead service line. The lead in lead service lines, household plumbing and fixtures can dissolve or break off into water and end up in tap water. The water provided to DWSD customers contains a corrosion inhibitor to reduce leaching from lead service lines and other lead components, but lead can still be present in water at the tap.

“We know that the number one source of lead poisoning in children is decaying paint and dust in homes that were constructed prior to 1978,” said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo.” The Detroit Health Department can help, with education on how to reduce lead exposure in homes, and referrals to get children tested. If anyone has any concerns regarding lead exposure inside their home, I encourage you to request a lead test from your child’s primary healthcare provider or contact the Detroit Health Department.”

Steps to reduce exposure to lead in your drinking water are posted in Detroit’s Water Quality Report.

Snapshot of the Detroit Lead Service Line facts
DWSD will start the accelerated lead service line replacements in two areas of Claytown in District 6 on Detroit’s southwest side
DWSD will start the accelerated lead service line replacements in two areas of Claytown in District 6 on Detroit’s southwest side, beginning with the northern box on this map.
Contractors use this equipment to allow for trenchless replacement of the lead service lines.
Contractors use this equipment to allow for trenchless replacement of the lead service lines.