MADISON - In a major effort to clear the way for cleaner water from the tap, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources plans to make $11.8 million available to municipalities to help remove old lead service lines that bring drinking water into homes.
The move, coming in advance of National Drinking Water Week, May 1 -7,
underscores DNR's commitment to safe drinking water and addresses the
financial barriers facing many communities where lead service lines
continue to deliver drinking water to residences. These service lines
extend from the main street pipes owned by local utilities onto private
property and into homes.
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 and even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to
affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement.
"Clean, safe drinking water is fundamental to the health of our
communities," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Through this innovative
effort, we are pleased to be able to support the efforts of private
citizens and municipalities around the state to remove these old lead
To create the program, DNR is taking advantage of a recent decision by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows greater flexibility
in allocating federally funded loans for water infrastructure projects.
Through the state's Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, DNR now has the
ability to provide disadvantaged municipalities with funding to help
cover the costs of lead service line replacements on private property.
Typically, homeowners are responsible for repair and replacement of
service lines extending from the public right of way across their
property and into the residence. Municipal water utilities bear
responsibility for replacing the main lines. Many homeowners are unable to afford complete replacement of lead
service lines, which can range in price but averages about $3,000 per
home. Despite the cost, full replacement is recommended because a
partial replacement can increase the amount of lead being released into
"DNR recognizes the challenges many communities face in addressing the
issue of lead service lines and the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program
offers an effective way to fill the financial gap," Stepp said. "We're
grateful to EPA for the flexibility that allows us to move forward.
Following the required public comment period and approvals, we
anticipate making these funds available for projects starting July 1,
Disadvantaged municipalities are determined based on factors including
population and median household income. Under this proposal,
municipalities with a population of less than 50,000 will be eligible
for up to $300,000 for lead service line replacement costs on private
property. For medium-sized communities, that cap will be $500,000, and
for the largest municipalities - those with a population greater than
500,000 - the cap will be $750,000.
Under the program, communities would determine how to distribute the
funds to homeowners. If providing full funding for replacement at an
average cost of $3,000 per household, smaller municipalities could
replace approximately 100 lead service lines, larger communities more
than 166 lines and the largest municipalities more than 250 lead service
lines. If the program proves successful, DNR would seek to provide a
similar level of funding for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2017.
Municipalities will need to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Loan
Program requirements and with federal regulations including Use of
American Iron and Steel and Davis-Bacon wage requirements. Money for the
lead service line replacement program does not represent new tax
revenue; instead it represents new flexibility to allocate existing
funds following a determination by U.S. EPA in March.
To learn more about the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program Intended Use Plan, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov<http://dnr.wi.gov/>, and search "environmental loans<http://dnr.wi.gov/aid/eif.html>."
The plan is available for public comment until May 10; email comments
to Robin Schmidt, environmental loans section chief, Robin.Schmidt@Wisconsin.gov<mailto:Robin.Schmidt@Wisconsin.gov> or
address mail to Safe Drinking Water Loan Program Intended Use Plan,
P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, attention: Community Financial