WaterWorld: Detroit uses Machine Learning for LSL Inventory and Replacement

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is using BlueConduit’s machine learning in their efforts to replace the city’s lead service lines (LSLs). Their work is getting state and federal funding and national notice. WaterWorld magazine recently published “How Detroit uses machine learning to solve its lead service line challenges” article.

Cities nationwide have challenges in scoping and implementing their LSL inventory and replacement programs due to the fact that they have incomplete or inaccurate data on where the lead is in the system. Detroit is no different. DWSD is using machine learning to inventory and inform their replacement plans to replace lead efficiently and in order of risk.

Here are a few highlights:

“This issue goes beyond compliance. Everyone knows that lead, in any amount, is an irreversible neurotoxin. This is about protecting the intellectual capacity of the next generation of Detroiters. Based on [DWSD Director] Gary Brown’s vision and setting the standards that we’re not going to hide behind simple compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, we wanted to get out in front of it and stay out in front of it. And the best way is to get the lead lines out.”

Sam Smalley, DWSD’s chief operating officer

Given the scope of the problem, the cost of the solution, and the realities of funding, DWSD had previously had every reason to believe it was embarking on a 40-year project that might cost billions of dollars.

“I think that our approach, coupled with our outreach and our collaboration with others, including BlueConduit, help put us over the top. Now money is starting to make itself available, through ARPA [the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021] funding, through bipartisan infrastructure money and other grants that are out there. We’re collaborating with a lot of other State and Federal agencies to find ways to pay for this. We’re increasingly confident we’ll meet our goal to be done with this in 10 years.”

Sam Smalley, DWSD’s chief operating officer

Getting the lead out in 10 years rather than 40 years is a 75% decrease in the proposed schedule and a huge accomplishment by the City of Detroit and a huge benefit to the people of Detroit.

BlueConduit is proud of being part of the effort to get the lead out of the Detroit.

Learn more about Machine Learning for LSLs

Dunrie Greiling

About Dunrie Greiling

Dunrie Greiling is BlueConduit’s VP of Marketing. She combines her training in science (biology Ph.D., University of Michigan) with her two decades of experience in tech startups. Prior to joining BlueConduit, she worked in science-based software and device companies in many roles, as an employee, as a consultant, and as an advisor and entrepreneur-in-residence.