Water utility announces plan to replace lead pipes in Hudson, Bergen Counties

A major water utility says it’s taking action following the discovery of elevated lead levels in homes in northern New Jersey.

Suez Water announced a plan Thursday to replace up to 100 lead service lines a week in Hudson and Bergen Counties, totaling some 2,400 lines by the end of the year.

The utility says the $15 million project will remove 50,000 feet of lead pipes, or 25 percent of the total amount of lead in the system.

Suez said in January it had found lead in multiple water samples taken from homes in Hudson and Bergen Counties. Of the 108 homes tested, 15 tested positive for levels of lead higher than the federal standard of 15 parts per billion.

In February, the water utility issued letters to more than 180,000 customers in 57 towns informing them about the elevated levels and the potential health risks of lead in water, which can include damage to the brain and kidneys.

Elevated lead levels pose a higher risk to infants, young children and pregnant women.

The utility says work will begin within weeks in the eight municipalities with the highest number of lead service lines: Bogota, Hackensack, North Bergen, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, Teaneck, Union City and West New York.

This year’s replacement project will be confined to 16 towns in Hudson and Bergen Counties. Suez says it plans to eventually remove all lead from its system but did not provide an exact time frame.

According to Suez, fewer than 5 percent of the utility’s service lines contain lead, while 12 percent have lead goosenecks, which connect service lines to water mains.