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Lead Service Line Replacement Program

Milwaukee's water quality meets all federal and state guidelines when it leaves the city's treatment plants. When lead is found in drinking water, it is usually because water has come into contact with lead in pipes and plumbing. The City of Milwaukee is working to reduce lead in drinking water through a program to replace roughly 65,000 residential lead serivce lines. Although these lead service lines are located throughout much of the city, the city's program prioritizes replacements in neighborhoods that are most in need.

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  Why is Milwaukee Replacing Lead Service Lines?


Milwaukee Water Works is committed to promoting public health through clean water. Our primary responsibility is to provide our suburban municipal customers and Milwaukee residents, business owners, and visitors with access to clean, safe drinking water. 

Our task is an immense responsibility. Milwaukee Water Works employees are proud of our reputation for having some of the best-tasting and purist drinking water in the country. With recent federal investments to help communities across the country replace their lead service lines, Milwaukee has a generational opportunity to eliminate a potential issue for some resident

Milwaukee Water Works will take advantage of every federal dollar available to replace lead pipes in Milwaukee. Now that federal funding has arrived, Milwaukee is ready to build on the foundation we built over the past several years. Water Works plans to rapidly expand the pace of lead service line replacement in the coming years until we are on track to replace all remaining pipes within the EPA's propsed 10-year timeline. 

You can track Milwaukee's progress on these pages by visiting the lead pipes dashboard. Residents and property owners can look up their property address to determine if they have a lead service line. These pages also include information about the results of our water sampling tests at residential properties with lead service lines, and provide helpful information about filters and other resources

We are always striving to do better in our mission to provide the public with clean safe drinking water and welcome your feedback.

Patrick W. Pauly, 
Superintendent, Milwaukee Water Works

  When is a Lead Service Line Replacement Required?

The Milwaukee Code of Ordinances § 225-22.5 requires a full replacement (publicly-owned portion and privately-owned portion) of the lead service line with copper from the water main that runs under the street to the curb stop (city-owned) and from the curb stop to the meter (customer-owned) in the following situations.  

Childcare Facilities:  A licensed group child care center, a licensed family day care center, or a certified child care home. (About 50-75 per year)

Leaks or Failures: When a leak or failure is found on either the customer-owned portion (private side) or the city-owned portion (public side) of the lead service line. (About 500 - 550 per year)

Certain Planned Projects: When the city-owned section is replaced, with water main replacements and prior to road reconstruction projects (when the city is completely rebuilding the road, which doesn't include high-impact paving projects). (About 550 - 650 per year)

Equity Prioritization Plan: Using objective criteria, Water Works will assign a score to every Census Block Group in the city, intentionally prioritizing disadvantaged areas. (1,000 in 2024) Learn more about the Equity Prioritization Plan below.

  How Can Owners Voluntarily Replace Their Lead Service Line?

Subject to capacity, Milwaukee Water Works will replace a limited number of lead services lines that are not part of a planned project or required due to a leak. To participate in this voluntary program, property owners must agree to pay for the full cost of replacing the private portion of the service line. For more information about the Owner Request Option Program click here.

  How is Water Works Incorporating Equity in this Work?

Milwaukee Water Works is expanding its lead service line replacement program to prioritize neighborhoods with the greatest need.

Our Equity Prioritization Plan balances three key factors:

  1. Density of lead service lines.
  2. Incidences of elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) in children.
  3. The neighborhood's score on a socio-economic index.
  Who pays for the replacement costs, the property owner or the City?

In most cases, the property owner does not have to pay anything. 

As of January 4, 2024, there will be no cost to owners of properties with 1-4 "dwelling units" (meaning: single-family homes, duplexes, 3 or 4-unit apartment buildings) as long as there are no commercial uses, when replacement is required. 

Property owners of commercial properties are asked to share the cost of replacement with Water Works. Water Works will pay for the utility-owned portion of the service line (from the curb stop valve to the water main). Property owners of buildings that have a commerical purpose will be asked to pay the lesser of the actual or estimated cost to replace the private side (owned by the property owner). 

The five-year average cost for the private side is $4,358. Estimates can vary from project by project, and are determined by the bid submitted by the private contractor. 

Water Works will provide an estimate for a specific property upon request. 

Water Works will mail a letter to all property owners in advance of the construction project notifying them of the planned replacement. The letter will include two forms that must be completed (one authorizes the contractor to perform work on private property, and one authorizes the utility and the contractor to enter the premises to perform the work). 

 

Diagram on Lead Service Line to a Home

What Is a Service Line? 

The service line connects the water main in the street to the property. Water mains are not made of lead. However, many service lines are made of lead. The water utility owns the portion of the service line from the water main to the curb stop. The property owner owns the section of the line from the curb stop to the water meter. 

Lead Service Line Replacement FAQ

How to Take Action

Look up your address

Address Search

Check to see if your property has a lead service line.

Check Your Address

Water Testing

Find guidance on how to test your water for lead.

Test Your Water

Lead Risks

Discover ways to reduce lead risks from water in your home.

Reduce Lead Risks

Water Filters

Find a filter certifed to remove lead for safe drinking.

Get a Filter

Resources


Lead and Health: For more information about sources of lead, lead exposures, lead risks, and lead safe homes, please visit the Milwaukee Health Department Home Environmental Health Program.

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