Cleveland Water Alliance Continues to Accelerate Solutions to the Lead Service Line Crisis

June 17, 2024
Emily Hamilton

Overview of the Lead Service Line Challenge and Need for Solutions

The detection of lead service lines without breaking ground has become a critical issue in recent years. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supporting stricter regulations surrounding the elimination of lead service lines, water utilities across the country are required to map their service line materials and provide an inventory to the EPA by October 16, 2024. However, accurately verifying service line material types typically requires costly excavation, making it a significant and costly challenge for public water systems (PWS).

CWA Stays Up to Date on This Major Issue

Currently, the market is not aware of commercialized solutions for detecting lead service lines without excavation. Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) recognizes this and is committed to facilitating solutions in any way possible. CWA understands that there won't be a one-size-fits-all solution to identifying every single lead service line, which is why they are exploring a variety of methods and technologies to address the problem.

As Emily Hamilton from CWA states, "There's room in this space for multiple solutions. We wanted to create an ecosystem for the innovation, evolution, and adoption of these solutions."

Open Innovation Challenge Seeks to Solve the Problem

CWA's 2024 Open Innovation Challenge has been successful in fostering the development of emerging solutions to detect lead service lines without excavation. Two challenge-winning technologies, Solinas Technologies and GQC, will be testing their solutions at CWA's Lead Service Line Research Facility in Cleveland this April. CWA is providing finalists with opportunities to connect with organizations that assist with rapid prototyping and is working with Battelle Research in Columbus to connect finalists with EPA representatives for advisory conversations about technology developments and their effectiveness.

The challenge's judges panel has become a panel of advisors, providing invaluable feedback and potential additional opportunities for testing in real-world conditions, such as the specific conditions available through a local drinking water utilities connection. The judges for the 2024 OI Challenge, esteemed representatives from Greater Cincinnati Water Works, City of Cleveland Division of Water, Akron Water Supply Bureau, and Aqua Ohio, played a crucial role in the success of the challenge.

CWA Identifies and Hosts Other Lead Detection Technologies

In addition to the Open Innovation Challenge, CWA identifies and hosts other detection technologies at the Lead Service Line Research Facility in Cleveland. Echologics—a Canadian engineering company based in Toronto that specializes in non-invasive acoustic detection of underground pipe condition assessment—is in the process of commercializing its solution and has worked with CWA to test at the research facility. CWA is also providing prototyping and piloting support to a technology spinout from Drexel University. CWA is also partnering with Battelle and Cornwell Engineering to further advanced detection technologies.

Expanding into Other Materials

The solutions developed for lead service line detection can be adapted to future service line detection and mediation needs. Regulators will likely consider replacements for galvanized steel and possibly even other materials in the future. By fostering the development of innovative detection technologies, CWA is helping to prepare the water industry for potential future challenges.

Cleveland Water Alliance remains dedicated to accelerating solutions to the lead service line crisis by staying current on the issue, hosting the Open Innovation Challenge, identifying and hosting detection technologies, and expanding into other materials. Through these efforts, CWA is helping to build a safer future for all by addressing this critical public health and environmental safety challenge.

Emily Hamilton
Blog Post Author

Emily Hamilton

Author Bio

Emily is passionate about identifying exciting technologies and assisting innovators in navigating stakeholder interests and the broader innovation ecosystem.

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