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You'll Soon Be Able To Find Out If Your Water Pipes Are Lead

Louisville residents will soon be able to find out whether they have lead water service lines on their property.

Louisville Water Company analysts are working to finalize an interactive mapping tool that will enable customers to log in with their account number and address to see the status of their water lines. Officials hope to have the tool available by the end of this week.

Water Company spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith said many homes built after the 1950s are free of lead service lines. And about 6 percent of the homes built prior to then still have lead lines, she said. Many lead service lines have already been replaced with copper pipes.

Smith briefed a Metro Council committee Wednesday on the state of the city's drinking water. The address comes in the wake of findings in Flint, Michigan, showing much of the city's drinking water is contaminated with lead.

Smith assured the committee Louisville's drinking water is safe.

"We are regarded as having some of the best drinking water in the United States," she said.

Smith said Louisville health officials have never reported a lead case stemming from tainted water.

Water is lead-free when it leaves the city's water treatment facility, she said. The water may pick up small traces of lead en route to sinks, showers and other faucets across the city when it travels through lead lines.

City crews have been working to replace lead water lines across Louisville since the 1980s. Currently, about 7,700 city-owned lead water lines remain, which is about 3 percent of the water company's overall stock of lines, according to LWC.

Water Company officials hope to have all lead lines removed and replaced with copper lines by 2025, Smith said.

The agency also works in tandem with Jefferson County Public Schools to test the water quality of drinking fountains in schools. Since 2004, more than 14,000 drinking fountains have been tested for traces of lead, with more than 99 percent found to be completely safe, Smith said.

Of the few fountains found to contain lead, Smith said, school officials have been swift to replace or remove the necessary components to correct the issue.

Ensuring residents are aware of their private service lines is important because replacing those lines is not the responsibility of the Water Company, Smith said.

But, she added, if you have lead lines, that doesn't mean your water is contaminated. Engineers with the Water Company constantly monitor the chemical makeup of the city's water to ensure its balance won't corrode pipes.

"Part of making drinking water is corrosion control," she said. "Our water is safe."

The four council members present seemed pleased to hear Smith's presentation.

"This is very informative," said Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, a Democrat who represents District 3.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.