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Milwaukee Water Works
# of Lead Service Lines replaced in 2020 = 216
# of Lead Service Lines replaced in 2019 = 998
# of Lead Service Lines replaced in 2018 = 932
# of Lead Service Lines replaced in 2017 = 621
Total 2017 - 2019 = 2,551
There is no safe level of lead in the body. Lead can be unsafe when it is swallowed with food or water, or breathed in. Lead can affect learning, mental health, and increase the risk of diseases later in life. Lead is especially dangerous to very young children when it is swallowed or breathed in. Lead has been used to make many products including paint, pipes and plumbing materials, ceramics and cosmetics.
There is no lead in Milwaukee’s drinking water when it leaves our treatment plants. But lead is often present in water because lead can dissolve into the water as it sits in lead services lines that connect your house to the water main in the street. Lead also may be present in interior plumbing and fixtures. In the 1900s, lead was cheap, easy to work with and a readily available material to use for services lines and plumbing.
Milwaukee Code of Ordinances § 225-22.5 requires replacement of the lead service line with copper from the water main to the curb stop (city-owned) and from the curb stop to the meter (customer-owned) when:
(1) a leak or failure is found on either the customer-owned section or the city-owned section of the lead service line or
(2) when the city-owned section is replaced for any reason. This includes:
• planned replacement of a water main that is connected to lead service lines
• replacement of a lead service line serving a child care
• should a lead service line be severed or damaged by a contractor during a DPW street reconstruction or sewer main replacement project, DPW will notify MWW and MWW will coordinate with the property owner to replace both the customer-owned and city-owned sections of the lead service line with copper.
3) when a property owner chooses to replace their customer-owned section of lead service line when it is NOT required, the city must replace its city-owned section of lead service line.
Who pays for the Lead Service Line Replacement when replacement is required by the city?
A cost-share is available for properties with 1-4 dwelling units if they choose to use the city contractor to do the work. Currently, owners pay only $1,754.00. The city pays the rest. The owner can pay their $1,754.00 share as a special assessment over 10 years.
Properties with 5 or more dwelling units are typically investment properties operated for a profit and better able to bear the costs of service line replacement than residential properties containing 1-4 dwelling units. If the property owner chooses to use the city’s contractor to replace the owner’s section of lead service line, the owner may repay the city for the full cost of the replacement as a special assessment over 10 years.
Replacement of the city-owned sections of lead service lines are paid by MWW rate revenue because the section is utility property.
For all properties, if an owner decides to replace a lead service line when it is NOT required, the owner must hire a licensed contractor, pay 100% of the cost, and is not eligible for a special assessment or cost-share.
Customers are advised that sources of lead may be present in internal plumbing and that property owners may want to hire a licensed plumber to replace it.
MWW provides instructions for flushing plumbing and a voucher to the customer(s) at a property, to be exchanged at the customers’ discretion, for one filter pitcher and replacement cartridge to be used for drinking and cooking water during and up to 30 days after the project is completed in these construction situations in which a lead service line will not be replaced.
We advise you to drink and cook only with tap water filtered with an NSF 53 certified filter. Maintain the filter properly and regularly change the cartridge. City of Milwaukee residents may be eligible for free filters from the Milwaukee Health Department. Call the lead hotline at (414) 286-2165.
If you are not using a filter, drink and cook only with cold water that has been well-flushed for at least three minutes to reduce your risk of lead exposure.
In 1991, the US EPA introduced the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) to regulate lead and copper in drinking water. In compliance with this rule, and under the direction of the EPA and Wisconsin DNR, Milwaukee Water Works implemented corrosion control in 1996 to reduce lead and copper in tap water. Optimized corrosion control is achieved by adding orthophosphate, a common food addditive approved by the FDA, which coats the pipes and internal plumbing fixtures and significantly reduces lead and copper from dissolving into tap water.
Since corrosion control began in Milwaukee, lead levels have decreased by more than 50%. This graph shows the 90th percentile and median lead levels from Milwaukee EPA Lead and Copper Rule compliance sampling beginning in 1993. You can see how lead levels dropped after corrosion control began.
Corrosion control prevents lead from dissolving from lead service lines and lead plumbing into the water
Nutrition and health
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Zeidler Municipal Building
841 N. Broadway, Room 406
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Open Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 3268, Milwaukee, WI 53201-3268
24-Hour Control Center
A Sept 2017 EPA report quantified and compared contributions of lead from air, soil/dust, water and food to children's blood lead levels.
Children living in older homes with lead-based paint hazards by far have the most exposure to lead. For 1- to 6- year olds in the top 90-100 percentile, more than 70% of the lead in their blood was from soil and dust.
The contribution of lead from food was 20% and drinking water was 10%. For infants, soil and dust contribute to 50% of the lead in blood, while 40% was from water and 10% from food.
The EPA is evaluating approaches to setting a health-based benchmark for lead in drinking water.
Together, Let's Get the Lead Out
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