Wisconsin launches effort to replace aging lead pipes to safeguard water

By Dee J. Hall

The state Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday it will target low-income areas with $11.8 million in new grants to replace aging pipes made of lead that supply water to homes.

The dangers of lead in drinking water have been highlighted by the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where corrosion from a new water source sent unsafe levels of lead into homes, doubling the rate of lead poisoning among children. Lead exposure has been linked to irreversible brain damage in children, miscarriages and other health problems.

The DNR said it will make money available to water utilities to subsidize or pay for replacement of homeowners’ portions of the lead service lines that run from the curb to the house. Replacement of those segments will cost about $3,000 per home, the DNR said.

At least 176,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin receive water from lead service lines, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalismreported in February.

Milwaukee has about 70,000 lead service lines, which the Milwaukee Water Works has estimated would cost half a billion dollars to replace. Madison is thought to be the first city in the nation to replace all of its lead service lines.

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