The City of Cheviot has a total of 1,603 lead service lines according to Greater Cincinnati Water Works. Yes, the very water which flows into your home and is poured into your glass may very well have hitchhiked a ride from a lead pipe.
It wasn't until the 1920s when cities in the United States started moving away from using lead piping. However, this practice was still approved by the National Plumbing Service until the 1980s, and wasn't outright banned until 1986.
Greater Cincinnati Water Works is committed to a long-term goal of disabling all lead service lines in 15 years. To achieve this goal, GCWW has initiated a cost-sharing program to help residents replace their lead service lines. It will typically cost a homeowner about $3,500 to replace their service lines. GCWW is offering to pay forty percent of those costs up to $1,500. Additionally, if a resident lives in an area that has an assessment agreement with GCWW they are given the option to pay the remaining amount owed through installments on their property tax bills over five, or ten years. Additional cost-sharing may be available for those who qualify. If you live in an area that has an assessment agreement with GCWW click here to find out if you qualify for additional cost-sharing. (Current agreements include City of Cincinnati, Deer Park, Fairfax, Golf Manor, Mason, Mount Healthy, and Silverton.)
The assessment agreement has caused Cheviot City Council to proceed with caution as they have deliberated over the issue for over a year now.
The issue for the council isn't if the program will benefit the residents of Cheviot. The question they have been mulling over is if the assessment agreement gives GCWW the authority to force residents to replace their service lines. Furthermore, would the City of Cheviot essentially be giving up control of its service lines and possibly forcing its residents into an unforeseen mandate?
In the opinion of Mark Waters, President of Cheviot City Council, it does, or it at least has the ability to, with the language pertaining to the current proposed agreement. Waters cited in his email to council, "Paragraph 2 of the agreement states that 'GCWW will administer the program as described in Chapter 401 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code .'" Waters continues with, "In 2017, Cincinnati City Council amended Chapter 401 to expressly make lead water lines illegal. That was the reason for our objection earlier this year. When we met with GCWW, we asked them to amend that language to make clear that the program would be voluntary for our residents. GCWW refused." Waters also acknowledges in his email that it isn't practical for GCWW to enforce a total ban immediately and GCWW hasn't done so for the City of Cincinnati, but nonetheless it is in the language of the assessment agreement.
According to GCWW however, "We already have the ability to do that," according to Jeff Swertfeger, GCWW Superintendent. The position from the members of GCWW is this assessment agreement changes nothing. The agreement will only benefit the residents of Cheviot, and they already possess the authority to use the city's fear of a possible mandate. This would not be in the City of Cincinnati's best interest, however. "That would really impact the City of Cincinnati to a great degree because out of the 44,000 lead lines, 39,000 are in the City of Cincinnati; so if we did that we would really be crippling the City of Cincinnati," said Verna Arnette, Deputy Director of GCWW.
Cheviot City Council could vote YES or NO on the GCWW agreement as early as the next council meeting which is slated for January 21 at City Hall this coming Tuesday.
Whenever the vote does end up taking place, the council will have to decide if the possibility of government intrusion outweighs viable financing options for its residents.
If Swertfeger's statement is true, the council's decision may very well be a clear one.