The Last Meter
U.S. drinking water systems have used lead service lines for centuries, but federal and some state laws ban them or require their replacement due to their now well-known detrimental health effects. Many public water systems are struggling to locate and replace lead pipes with safe alternatives, particularly due to the scale of the problem and persistent challenges of gaining cooperation from some segments of the population. We propose a randomized control trial to investigate the efficacy of interventions designed to overcome the barriers public water systems face when trying to locate lead service lines in these “hard-to-reach” populations. We are partnering with a major public utility in Trenton, NJ to target the interventions to over 9,000 properties with unknown pipe material in the urban core of the service area, which has a high concentration of people of color, renters, and households experiencing poverty. We propose two treatments: providing information about a streamlined self-inspection process that allows residents to submit a photo of their service line; and offering residents monetary incentives to encourage this low-cost alternative to in-person inspections. We will measure the effectiveness of each treatment and trace demand curves to inform a feasible path forward to locate and confront a key source of legacy lead contamination.