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Detroit to Save $ 165 Million Using Technology to Identify Lead Pipes


The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will save $ 165 million from BlueConduit’s predictive modeling for lead pipes. // Courtesy of DWSD

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced it would save approximately $ 165 million using BlueConduit’s predictive modeling to determine the inventory of lead service lines in the city and comply with state regulations. .

BlueConduit is a water infrastructure analytics and consulting company that uses machine learning and data to help cities optimize inventory for core service lines. The effort was funded by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

This will allow the city to meet the January 2025 deadline of providing EGLE with a complete inventory of distribution system materials, as required for all cities and townships in Michigan with lead service lines, and to enlighten planning for Detroit’s $ 450 million lead service line replacement program.

DWSD will dig 384 shutdown boxes instead of over 300,000 using predictive modeling from BlueConduit, which will use data from these boxes to predict the likely location and quantities of lead service lines. The shut-off box is the outside on / off valve that attaches to the service line that brings treated potable water from the Detroit water system to the home or business.

The estimated expense of $ 165 million for excavating 300,000 water service lines to test the pipe material would otherwise be passed on to Detroit customers through a likely rate increase.

“Every decision we make at DWSD considers affordability,” says Palencia Mobley, Deputy Director and Chief Engineer at DWSD. “This partnership with BlueConduit and funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and EGLE allows us to have a mapping of the likely locations of the main service lines for planning and regulatory reporting, without digging each service line. in the city of Detroit, which would probably have increased water rates to pay for the work.

Michigan’s revised lead and copper rule was enacted in June 2019 and is the toughest in the country. It requires all water utilities and municipalities to replace all lead service lines within the next 20 years.

It also requires suppliers to create a complete inventory of distribution system materials by January 2025, for which they are encouraging the use of predictive modeling to avoid the excavation of every shutdown box in the state.

“Environmental lead – in the homes where too many of us live, in the air too many of us breathe, in the water too many of us drink – has been known as an environmental plague for decades.” says Wendy Lewis Jackson, executive director of the Kresge Foundation’s Detroit program.

“And despite a lot of work to fix the problem, there is still a long way to go. We are proud to do our part to support this innovative effort by DWSD and BlueConduit to advance the goal of replacing all of the city’s lead service lines by 2040. ”