Racine residents that have lead pipes on their private property may be forced to replace them, but a $500,000 loan that the Racine Water Utility just received may defray those costs.

The problem: Lead enters drinking water as a result of corrosion in lead service lines and in older household plumbing. To combat the problem, the city has treated the water with ortho-phosphate, which minimizes the corrosiveness of those pipes, for the past 20 years. But new requirements by the EPA and DNR will require homeowners to replace the lead pipes hooking into the city’s right-of-way.

The forgivable loan program through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will help about 200 homeowners replace the lead pipes that hook into the city’s lead service pipes in the public right of way, which are expected to cost about $2,500.

Learn more about lead poisoning.

New Rules For Lead Pipe Replacement

Keith Haas, director of the Water and Wastewater Utilities, said funding for the loan program is limited and could be exhausted after 2017.

“The available funding is limited at this time and likely will be exhausted after 2017,” Haas said. “Future funding for private services is unknown, but could fall on the shoulders of homeowners.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made about $12 million available to some municipalities in the state that have old lead service lines that bring drinking water into homes. The funds, which are being made available through the U.S. EPA, are being administered by the state.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan — which saw 1,000s of children suffer from lead poisoning — has heightened the state’s vigilance about the issue of having high levels of lead in water, which is known to cause physical and mental impairments in adults and children, according to a story by the New York Times.

How Homeowners Can Tap Into Money

The city has about 9,500 lead services to replace in the public right of way. As those pipes in the public right of way are replaced, homeowners will also be expected to replace the private lead services that hook into the city’s public right of way.

“Homeowners will able to select a plumber that is pre-qualified by the Racine Water Utility to perform the lead service replacement on private property. The plumber will then seek reimbursement through the Water Utility and City under a rebate program,” Haas said.

Lead levels in some Racine residents’ municipal water were nearly double the allowable levels in 2014. A letter from the utility, sent on October 5, 2015, notified residents that 5,025 of the 33,500 property owners in 2014 were at risk of high lead levels, which is just over the U.S. EPA  standard of 15 parts per billion. Some properties lead levels were as high as 25 ppb, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Recent lead tests have shown that the water, leaving the treatment plant is “virtually lead-free,” according to a press release from the city of Racine.

The City will notify residents if they qualify for the program.

For more information, visit the City of Racine website and click on the Water Utility tab.

 

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.