With the situation in Flint, Michigan as a backdrop, a first-of-its kind program to replace lead service lines on qualifying private properties is being expanded to 38 communities that requested assistance through the DNR.
Several communities are in northern Wisconsin. Lead service lines were gradually phased out of new construction during the 1940s and '50s but remain in some areas developed before that time. Lead service lines may deliver drinking water with elevated lead levels at the tap. Officials say there's been a frustration among water utilities to remove the lead from tap water because of the lead pipes in private systems.
The DNR's Robin Schmidt says they've identified ways to use some funds to get the older lead pipes still being used in private water supplies...
"....some of them are looking at a portion of those costs and putting a cap they provide per household. Some municipalities are looking at criteria such as the age of the children in the household. They're providing 100 percent cost replacement(of the pipes) if they have younger children.Some municipalities have fewer lines and they're able to offer 100 percent replacement to all of their customers that have lead service lines so it's dependent on each municipality...."
The DNR conceived the funding program earlier this year following a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow the state greater flexibility in allocating loan funds for water infrastructure projects.
Rhinelander, Eagle River, Park Falls and Antigo are on the list to be funded by the DNR to help private property owners get rid of lead pipes used in drinking water.