Lead and other heavy metals are usually not wanted in your drinking water. I’ve had plenty of first hand experience with water quality issues, so I know this topic very well. I won’t go into detail. But it usually goes… “lead=bad”. That said, we bought our house knowing we had a lead service line supplying our domestic water. Granted, the previous owners lived and raised 4 children with that lead water service line, so it’s manageable. The water can be flushed a few minutes before you drink/use it (although this might get you worse results, but I won’t get into the details).

But we had an incentive. The Boston water utility actually gives owners a $1000 credit towards the replacement of the lead service line. So we signed up. A few weeks later, they were ready to go. Which is quite fast for a beaurocratic institution like BWSC. I was figuring a few months.

4 out of 5 of the crew

A team of 3 subcontractors, a BWSC inspector, and a police officer arrived that morning (now there’s an efficient team put together by a local government). The subcontractors brought an excavator, a dump truck, and a pickup/dump truck towing a large air compressor.

A brief synopsis of the work: they dig down into the public sidewalk where the service line is. The loosen the lead pipe at the inside of the house. Then they “fish” (like fishing electricity lines) a steel cable through the inside of the lead service line. The new flexible copper pipe is attached to the cable. The cable is pulled from the sidewalk, simultaneously taking the old lead pipe and the new copper pipe behind it.

And now a pictorial:

getting ready
There’s the sidewalk before any work started.

jackhammer
Here they are hammering out the area to be excavated in the sidewalk.

Cutting the ground
Cutting away at the (electrical) ground and water connection in the basement.

excavating
Excavating the sidewalk

new copper pipe
Getting the new copper pipe ready (it’s amazing how flexible they are).

about to pull
Just about ready to pull out old pipe (see chain attached to excavator).

pulling
Pulling old lead pipe and new copper pipe.

copper
Just finished pulling. There’s the copper pipe in place of the lead .

final connection
Final connection to the water meter (inside the basement).

patching hole
Patching the hole with concrete.

asphalt
Filling and compacting sidewalk. The last few inches are asphalt.

Supposedly another crew is going to replace the asphalt with concrete. The water utility has a different subcontractor do all concrete work (go figure). I’ve since noticed many sidewalks in our neighborhood with very old asphalt patches at their water shut-off valve. Not an encouraging sign.

And all this in less than 4 hours.