Targeting lead service line projects to minimize childhood exposure

My paper, "Prioritizing municipal lead mitigation projects as a relaxed knapsack optimization: a method and case study" (doi: 10.1111/itor.13212), was published this morning over at International Transactions in Operational Research.

(There may be a paywall for non-academic users,1 but the arXiv pre-print is virtually identical and always open access:

Here's the abstract:

Lead pipe remediation budgets are limited and ought to maximize public health impact. This goal implies a nontrivial optimization problem; lead service lines connect water mains to individual houses, but any realistic replacement strategy must batch replacements at a larger scale. Additionally, planners typically lack a principled method for comparing the relative public health value of potential interventions and often plan projects based on nonhealth factors. This paper describes a simple process for estimating child health impact at a parcel level by cleaning and synthesizing municipal datasets that are commonly available but seldom joined due to data quality issues. Using geocoding as the core record linkage mechanism, parcel-level toxicity data can be combined with school enrollment records to indicate where young children and lead lines coexist. A harm metric of estimated exposure-years is described at the parcel level, which can then be aggregated to the project level and minimized globally by posing project selection as a 0/1 knapsack problem. Simplifying for use by nonexperts, the implied linear programming relaxation is solved with the greedy algorithm; ordering projects by benefit cost ratio produces a priority list that planners can then consider holistically alongside harder to quantify factors. A case study demonstrates the successful application of this framework to a small U.S. city's existing data to prioritize federal infrastructure funding.

And my favorite figures from the paper:

Figure 4 from the linked paper showing power law distribution of project value.

Figure 5 from the linked paper showing simulated impacts under different replacement strategies.

My hope is that our work in the City of Malden targeting lead service line replacements to minimize childhood exposure can be replicated in other cities.

1 The publishers charge a lot to make an article open access. I'd like to do this but it costs over $3,500 for the journal in question.