DWSD scales up lead service line replacement to 8,000 per year, thanks to $85M in EGLE grants

  • Previous pace was 700 annually; Detroit now a national leader in replacing lead service lines
  • Added work creating opportunity for Detroiters as DWSD hires contractors and more city crews
  • DWSD has quickly ramped up pace, now replacing lead services lines at 150+ homes weekly
  • Goal is to replace all 80,000 lead lines in next 10 years


Today, during national Drinking Water Week, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) Director Phillip Roos, and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown provided an update on the City’s robust, nationally-recognized Lead Service Line Replacement Program. Mayor Duggan and Director Brown made a commitment a year ago to get the lead out within the next ten years, which will exceed state and federal regulatory compliance.

DWSD lead service line replacement pic1
DWSD Field Services Technician Darius Byrd of Detroit explains to Mayor Duggan and representatives from EGLE on Buena Vista St. in the Russell Woods neighborhood how the crews remove lead service lines at homes and replace them with copper pipe.


“What Gary Brown and the team at DWSD are doing to replace old lead service lines has made Detroit a national leader in this effort,” said Mayor Duggan. “We are so grateful to have the strong support of Gov. Whitmer and State EGLE Director Phil Roos, which has allowed us to significantly accelerate our timeline and to hire more Detroiters to perform this work.”

Director Brown announced the acceleration of lead service line replacements to 150 each week, with the help of state and federal funding including the $75M EGLE grant using American Rescue Plan Act dollars, a $10M state grant through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a $5M grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WIIN initiative, and dollars from DWSD’s Capital Improvement Program.

“Since Governor Whitmer took office, the state has invested more than $958 million in lead service line removals and has implemented the strongest lead and copper rule in the country,” said EGLE Director Phil Roos. “In February, the Governor proposed a budget with an additional $40 million for lead service line removals as well as new resources for water infrastructure projects and support for new staff to ensure our drinking water is protected. We’re committed to rebuilding our water infrastructure and ensuring that every family in Michigan has the confidence that their drinking water is healthy and that our world-class water natural resources are protected.”

Detroit recently signed onto the Great Lakes Lead Pipes Partnership to have a coalition of cities around our Great Lakes to advocate for and secure additional federal funding. The partnership is led by the Chicago-based Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. The partnership was announced during the White House Water Summit on April 23.

How it Started
Service line material is either copper, lead or galvanized steel. DWSD replaces lead and galvanized service lines that deliver drinking water. Lead service lines are primarily found in single-family homes, duplexes and small storefronts. They are not typically found in larger buildings including schools.

In 2018, prior to the revised Michigan Lead and Copper Rule, currently the most stringent in America, DWSD began replacing lead service lines at no cost to customers as part of its Capital Improvement Program when on the same street replacing the water main. Extensive community outreach standard operating procedures (SOPs), including “on-the-block” neighborhood meetings and informational packets, were developed. The city owns the portion of the service line from the water main to the stop box (turn-on/off valve in the front of the house), and the property owner is responsible for the service line from the stopbox to inside the house. Therefore, DWSD must gain owner or occupant permission to replace lead service lines. From 2018 to 2022, DWSD replaced more than 3,000 lead service lines during water main replacement projects throughout the city.

Under the most stringent Lead and Copper Rule in the nation, Detroit’s drinking water remains below the lead action level at 9 parts per billion (ppb). The current state action level for lead is 15 ppb and will move to 12 ppb in January 2025.

Additional Funds and Capacity Building
In May 2023, DWSD announced $100M in federal, state and local funding to help the city replace more than 5,000 lead service lines yearly. To obtain a variety of contractors and ensure contractor capacity is available, DWSD met with more than 20 potential companies and solicited multiple contracts with availability for multiple awardees. Solicitations ranged from 250 replacements to as much as 2,500 replacements, to allow for smaller contractors to apply. In April 2023 a $25M contract, the first of the $75M in ARPA funds via EGLE, was awarded to Milwaukee-based Five Star Energy Services that has experience doing the same work in Flint and Benton Harbor, with a commitment to hire and train Detroiters. Then, in November 2023, a $45M contract, using the ARPA funds via EGLE, was awarded to four contractors, two of which are Detroit-based and two regionally-based:

  • LGC - Detroit, MI
  • Major Contracting - Detroit, MI
  • Five Star Energy Services - Waukesha, WI (new)
  • Bidigare Contractors - Plymouth, MI (new)

Through this effort, DWSD has three new contractors replacing lead service lines in Detroit, including, Jacksonville, Fla. based Murphy Pipeline, that is working separately on a water main replacement project which includes lead service line replacement on the same streets. The five contractors are currently working and will move through 18 Detroit neighborhoods over the next few months.

The $10M grant from EGLE's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (part of the $85M total) was contracted to Detroit-based LGC with lead service line replacements completed in 2023.

DWSD Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion Director Tiffany Jones, appointed by Brown in January 2022, conducted extensive contractor outreach to advertise DWSD solicitations to local and regional contractors, including digital newsletters and an in-person Contractor Workshops, most recently at Focus: Hope in December 2023.

DWSD Employee Crews, Decreasing Cost
Along with increasing contractor outreach, DWSD established internal employee crews to do lead service line replacement to reduce cost and provide more jobs to Detroiters. DWSD Field Services Technician Darius Byrd is one of the new crew members and was featured during today's announcement.

The startup costs were funded by the remaining $5M in ARPA funds from EGLE and began in September 2023. The contractor cost for replacement at the time was $13,000 per house. Completing lead service line replacements with city employees saves DWSD and its funding sources approximately $3,700 per line.

Brown said DWSD’s workforce is 54 percent Detroit residents. Currently, DWSD has a team of 12 employees dedicated to lead service line replacements with the plan to add more crews as additional funding is received.

“Our number one priority is providing safe, affordable drinking water to all residents and businesses in the city of Detroit,” said DWSD Director Brown. “Getting the lead out by replacing lead service lines improves public health for our current residents and future generations. Plus, the way we organized our robust program, we are providing jobs for Detroiters and mentoring for entrepreneurs including small, minority-owned businesses.”

Where Service Lines are Being Replaced
DWSD estimates there are 80,000 lead service lines in Detroit. In May 2023, DWSD started a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to replace lead service lines. Neighborhoods are prioritized based on density of housing built prior to 1945, significant number of children and seniors in the area, and likely high number of low-income households based on Census tracts. DWSD has completed more than 4,000 replacements in 15 neighborhoods across every district in Detroit since implementing this approach.

For a list of current and upcoming neighborhoods, visit detroitmi.gov/lslr. DWSD is working on a live map that will be available on the city website in the near future, said DWSD Director Brown.

DWSD lead service line replacement pic2


The Facts About Lead in Drinking Water and How to Protect Your Family
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.

If you have a lead service line, use the steps below to reduce your exposure to lead in your water.

  • Run your water to flush out your pipes. If water has gone unused in the home for six hours or more, run the water for 3-5 minutes to flush water from both the interior building plumbing and the lead service line. Lead levels are likely at their highest when water has been sitting in the pipe for several hours.
  • Use only cold water for dinking and cooking; lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
  • The most reliable method is to use a water filter certified to reduce lead in the water. If you have a lead service line or if there is a pregnant woman or children aged 6 and under in your home, use a filter that meets NSF standard 53 for lead removal for drinking and cooking. Always use a filter or bottled water If you are preparing formula for an infant.
  • Clean your aerators monthly. Aerators are small attachments at the tips of faucets which regulate the flow of water. They can accumulate small particles of lead in their screens.

To learn how to verify if you have a lead service line or to request a water quality test, visit detroitmi.gov/lslr.

About the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) delivers clean water and collects sanitary sewage and stormwater from more than 230,000 accounts, representing a residential population of nearly 700,000. DWSD’s water system consists of more than 2,700 miles of water main and 29,000-plus fire hydrants, and the combined sewer collection system has nearly 3,000 miles of sewer piping, more than 90,000 catch basins and 16 green stormwater infrastructure projects within the city of Detroit. Since June 2019, DWSD has committed $100 million per year to begin to address the aging infrastructure, including replacing lead service lines. To learn more about DWSD or to request water services, make payments, apply for affordability programs, or report water or sewer emergencies, call DWSD Customer Service at 313-267-8000, use the Improve Detroit mobile app, or visit detroitmi.gov/dwsd.