Google.org awards $3 million in grants to help identify lead service lines
Google.org has announced it has awarded $3 million in grants to BlueConduit Charitable Fund, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and WE ACT for Environmental Justice to help support the replacement of lead service lines.
“At Google.org we believe that when technology, innovation and community expertise come together, we can make big strides in efficiently addressing some of our most pressing and complex challenges. And lead contamination in our drinking water is certainly one of them,” said Brigitte Gosselink, Google.org director of product impact, in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with BlueConduit, WE ACT, and NRDC to carry out this incredibly important work.”
According to BlueConduit, the grants will fund its open-source machine-learning technologies that will enable cities and towns to quantify and map their lead service line inventory. This information will help municipalities to estimate the cost of replacing the lead lines. It also will allow water utilities to create public-facing maps and help meet upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Revised Lead and Copper Rule requirements. BlueConduit, WE ACT and NRDC say that the initial software will be available in early 2022.
In a statement, BlueConduit Co-Founder Eric Schwartz said: “The massive uncertainty around fundamental questions like, ‘How many lead service lines do we have across our community?’ is both costly and dangerous. By providing these free tools and services and bringing together these partners, we aim to empower communities and water systems nationwide to efficiently replace these pipes, reduce the time that people are living with lead, and generate more equitable outcomes for communities across the country.”
Lead exposure has shown to be harmful to human health. A recent NRDC survey estimated that the drinking water for between 9 million and 12 million homes in the United States are served by lead service lines.
“Lead service lines are a scourge that threatens families’ health in every state,” said Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director for health and food at NRDC. “This project will help residents learn the scope of the problem in their community and advocate for an equitable program to replace these lead pipes. No one should have to worry that the water flowing from their kitchen faucet could be contaminating their kids with lead.”
According to the announcement, funding supports collaboration with WE ACT, with input from NRDC, to fund local community groups in three to-be-selected cities, and WE ACT will administer funding and provide guidance and training to local organizations to support community engagement, education, and identifying and remediating risks of lead in water in their communities. NRDC will assist with technical, legal and policy elements and co-convene the partnership alongside WE ACT. BlueConduit will work with the water utility in each of the cities to support the development of their service line inventory.