What Can the Water Company Do to Prevent Another Flint?


Welcome to yet another episode our environmental policy podcast, Parts Per Billion, where we chat with reporters and newsmakers to bring you the stories behind our stories.

This week we’re back again with the second in our two-part conversation between George Hawkins, head of the local water utility here in Washington, and Bloomberg BNA water policy reporter Amena Saiyid.

Because Hawkins works in the water industry, he’s had to field a lot of questions recently about what’s been happening in Flint, Mich., where improper treatment caused lead pipes to corrode, triggering one of the worst contamination crises in a generation.

The truth is, though, water utilities don’t have the authority to do as much as you might think to prevent another Flint.

They can replace water mains and service lines, although doing so is expensive. But that might not reduce overall lead hazards—in fact, it might make the situation worse—if property owners don’t also replace the pipes that run from the service lines into their homes or businesses.

Despite this, there are some measures water utilities can take to, at the very least, keep their customers informed about their own lead water risks. Hawkins talked about the emerging technology that is making this easier for utilities to accomplish, and also about how the federal government can play a role in making it easier to finance lead pipe replacement.

Listen to the first part of our conversation with Hawkins in which he talks about his struggles to find funding for the water infrastructure projects of tomorrow.

You can read more of Amena’s reporting on water policy at our blog and in our publication Daily Environment Report. If you liked what you heard in the podcast, sign up for a free trial.

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