Murphy wants tax credit for ripping out pipes

By:  Alec Johnson
Republican American

Homes dating back to the 1770s dot Connecticut. Many of them, including those that remain from post-World war II building booms, may run water through lead pipes and old solder.

That troubles Sen. Christopher S. Murphy.

As the drama of lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich. unfolds, Murphy said he plans to propose tax credits for homeowners who update their plumbing to remove potential sources of lead.

Water companies report they are lining pipes under streets with cement and replacing older lead service lines with copper, but the companies have no control over pipes or solder within homes, and certainly not for homeowners on wells.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health said homes older than 1930 and those built within the past five years have the highest chance of lead leaching from pipes into water sources.

Older homes could have lead in their pipes. In newer homes, the phosphate added to public drinking water coat the interior of pipes and protect them from corrosion has not yet built up to keep lead solder that connects copper pipes from leaching.

Any building built before 1978 is potentially contaminated with lead, but those built before 1950 are particularly at risk, according to the health department.

Murphy, D-Conn., said he plans to proposed a bill that would allow a maximum tax credit of $5,000 for abatement of lead, radon or asbestos, including paint and old pipes, and $1,000 for the cost of interim control measures should a problem be discovered.

In Connecticut, 30 percent of houses were built before 1950 — that's nearly 1.5 million homes — compared to 19 percent nationally and nearly a quarter of homes were built in 1939 or earlier.

The figures do not take into account how many homes have lead, however, as some have already been remediated. Lead pipes in homes were not outlawed until 1978, and the Environmental Protection Agency did not regulate the amount of lead in drinking water until 1991.

"There are significant resources in Connecticut to get lead out of public housing, but there are few resources to help homeowners remove lead from privately owned housing," Murphy said. "There are still thousands upon thousands of old homes in Connecticut that have lead paint and lead fixtures. Children are at risk in those homes."

Murphy said the state Department of Health tightly regulates and tests public water sources in the state. Connecticut also has a state law requiring the annual testing, starting as early as infants, for children to detect lead poisoning before it becomes severe and life threatening.

The federal government gives tax deductions and credits for certain home improvements. Replumbing a home could cost a few thousand dollars to $15,000 for a two-bathroom home depending on whether copper or plastic pipes are installed.

It is unclear how many people might receive a tax break under Murphy's proposal. "The cost is the main barrier to getting it done," he said.