• Refine Search

  • All Results


Milwaukee's program to replace lead service lines

Milwaukee Water Works started systematically replacing lead service lines in 2017. The pipe that brings drinking water into a property from the water main in the street is a water service lines, sometimes referred to as a "lateral." Water service lines made with lead are referred to as lead service lines. 

We replace an average of about 1,000 lead service lines per year. Our goal for 2023 is 1200 replacements.

Required replacements*

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.  

•    Child Care Facilities:  A licensed group child care center, a licensed family day care center, or a certified child care home. (About 50-75 per year.)
•    Emergencies: When a leak or failure is found on either the customer-owned section or the city-owned section of the lead service line. (About 500 - 550 per year.)
•    Certain construction projects: When the city-owned section is replaced, including water main replacement or certain road reconstruction projects. (About 550 - 650 per year)

*Water Works proposes to add required replacements based on our Equity Prioritization Plan ranking starting in 2024.

Testing of a home's water supply for lead is available free of charge prior to and following each required lead service line replacement. Water Works will provide the resident with a sampling kit and instructions, and pick up the sample after it is collected. Kits are processed by an independent, third-party lab. Click here for sampling instructions. 

Voluntary, owner-initiated replacement

If a property owner wishes to replace the private side of the service line but the property is not scheduled for a required replacement ("owner initiated"), they must retain a licensed plumber to perform the work.

Milwaukee Water Works will provide a list of plumbers that have successfully completed lead service replacement projects for the utility, but does not recommend any specific plumber. The selected contractor will then contact Water Works to coordinate the public side replacement. (Depending on cost and schedule, the public side replacement may be performed by the selected contractor, a Water Works crew or a different private contractor retained by the Water Works.)

The property owner pays 100% of the private side cost directly to the selected contractor. (Costs can vary depending on how far a home is set back from the street.) The Water Works will pay for 100% of public side cost.

Contact leadlinerep[email protected] with questions or for more information. 

Testing: Property owners or occupants can test their water for lead (and other possible contaminants) at any time by contacting an independent water quality lab and requesting a lead sampling kit. Lead sampling kits cost about $32-$100. The lab will mail the kit to you. Click here for a list of labs, or visit Northern Lake Service ($35 lead test kit), Suburban Laboratories/Metiri ($100 lead test kit), or the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene ($32 lead test kit).


Help us test Milwaukee residential properties for the presence of lead in water

To comply with the updated federal Lead and Copper Rule, Milwaukee is expanding our sampling of residential properties for lead in water. 

If you are intersted in participating, a chemist from our Water Quality Division will  provide you with a kit for collecting water from your home, and instructions. Participating properties must be single family homes, not duplexes or properties with more than one dwelling unit. 

Last name: 

First name: 

Property Address: 

Is this property a single family home, duplex, or something else? 

Your phone number: 

Best time to call you: 

Your email address: 

Preferred method of contact: 


Sampling for 2023 is nearly complete, but we are looking for additional volunteers for 2024. Do you plan to reside at your property in 2024? 

Equity Prioritization Plan

We are expanding our lead service line replacement program to prioritize neighborhoods with the greatest need!

Our Equity Prioritization plan will balance three key factors: 1) density of lead service lines, 2) incidences of elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) in children, and 3) the neighborhood's score on a socio-economic index.

The socio-economic index we use is Area Deprivation Index (ADI), developed by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health's Center for Health Disparities. combines 17 different criteria related to income/employment, housing, education, and household factors, and was designd to inform healthcare delivery and health-related policy. The data for the ADI comes from the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every two years. EBLL data is provided by the Milwaukee Health Department, and lead service line data come from the Water Works. 

"Normalizing" these three criteria by population (equalizing the data, relative to the population in a Census Block Group) allows us to equally measure and score every neighborhood in Milwaukee, and promote equity by giving more weight to socio-economic indicators of underinvestment and high rates of blood lead levels.  ADI is weighted at 70%, EBLL is weighted at 25% and lead service line density is weighted at 5%.

By scoring each Census Block Group, Water Works creates a rank order for all 400+ Census Block Groups in Milwaukee. The timeline of when lead service lines in a particular Census Block Group will be replaced is determined by the total number of replacements that can be replaced in a given year. 

Who pays for the Lead Service Line (LSL) replacement when replacement is required by the City of Milwaukee Ordinance?

The average total cost to replace a lead service line (based on the total cost of required replacements) is about $9,600 (the average price fluctuates from year to year). The public side (from the water main to the curb) costs about $4,827 and the private side (from the curb to the water meter inside a home) costs about $4,776. 

For required LSL replacements:

  • If the property listed is exclusively residential (as determined by the Assessor's Office) and contains four or fewer residential dwelling units, the City of Milwaukee cost share program will help you cover the cost to replace your section of the lead service line. If your property is eligible, the City will hire a contractor to do the work.
    • Under the terms of the cost share the city pays 2/3 of the average cost of the private side, and the owner pays 1/3 of the average cost. 
    • The average cost of all lead service line replacment changes from year to year, based on bids submitted by private contractors to the city.  The average cost for the private side is currently $4,776. One-third of  the average private side cost is $1,592.00.
    • The City/Water Works will pay 100% of the public side cost (current average cost for the public side is $4,827).
    • Properties with one or more non-residential units are not eligible for the cost share, but can still use the City's contractor to replace the private side. 
    • Upon request, the City will provide a private-side cost estimate for properties not eligible for the cost share
  • The property owner can pay their share as a special assessment over 10 years (about $150 per year, plus interest).

​​​​For voluntary, owner-initiated LSL replacements:

  • If a property owner decides to replace a lead service line when it is not required by ordinance, the owner must hire a licensed contractor.
  • Water Works can provide a list of contractors that do lead service line replacements.
  • The property owner pays 100% of the cost of the private side for owner-initiated projects. Ask a licensed contractor to provide you with a cost estimate.
  • If a property owners selects a contractor to replace the private side, the contractor will notify the city of the planned work. 
  • Water Works will coordinate scheduling of the work with the contractor and will pay 100% of the cost to replace the public side. 

Water Filters

When a required lead service line replacement occurs:

Milwauke Water Works will provide: 1) instructions for how to propertly flush plumbing to reduce the risk of lead exposure and 2) a voucher for a filter pitcher and replacement cartridges to the customer(s) at a property. The filter is to be used for drinking and cooking water while construction work is ongoing, and up to 30 days after the project is completed.

Filters are also provided in the following situations:

  • A property with a lead service line is within the vicinity of a water main replacement, but is not directly connected to the section of main being replaced.
  • A Department of Public Works sewer replacement or street reconstruction is proximate to a property with a lead service line.

Please note: If a property has a lead service line, internal plumbing may include joints that are sealed with solder that contains lead. Internal plumbing can significantly contribute to lead in water. Property owners may want to hire a licensed plumber to replace their internal plumbing, in addition to replacing the lead service line. Water Works recommends flushing your tap (turn on the faucet and let the water run) for at least three minutes after water has been unused for more than 6 hours, to eliminate water that may contain lead.

There is no safe level of lead in the body. Click here to find out more about lead from the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Lead can be unsafe when it is swallowed or inhaled as small particles or dust (often a result of lead paint commonly found in older homes).
  • Lead can affect learning, mental health, and increase the risk of diseases later in life.
  • Lead is especially dangerous to very young children.
  • Lead has been used to make many products including paint, pipes and plumbing materials, ceramics and cosmetics.
  • Lead paint presents the greatest risks for lead poisoning. 
    • "Lead based paint and household dust remain the primary sources of lead exposure for children in Wisconsin," quoted in Audit of the Milwaukee Health Department Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Public Health Foundation, March 2020 (Source: Christensen K, Coons M.J., Walsh R.O., Meiman J.G., Neary E. Childhood Lead Poisoning in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Medical Journal. 2019 Apr;118(1):16-20.
    • "Lead-based paint, lead paint that contains house dust, and lead-contaminated soil are estimated to account for nearly 70% of elevated blood lead levels in U.S. children." (Source: Levin R, Brown MJ, Kashtock ME, et al. Lead exposures in U.S. children, 2008: Implications for prevention [published correction in Environ Health Perspect. 2008;116(10):1291]. Environ Health Perspect. 2008;116(10):1285–1293. 

Lead service lines in Milwaukee are treated with a corrosion control method that prevents lead from leaching into your drinking water.

  • Lead can leach into water as lead pipes to corrode over time, due to natural oxidization of the metal. 
  • Orthophosphate, a common food additive, prevents corrosion of Milwaukee's lead pipes.
  • Milwaukee's water chemistry is ideal for anti-corrosion treatment that uses orthophosphate.
  • Othophospate limits corrosion by slowing the oxidization process.
  • Water Works adds orthophospate as a final step in the water treatment process, before purified water leaves one of our two water treatment plants.

Milwaukee Water Works has been adding orthophosphate to Milwaukee's water since 1996.

The image above shows a corroded lead pipe (center)
and one treated with orthophosphate (right).

Click here to read our corrosion control report presented to the Common Council on March 1, 2022. 

This image shows a Milwaukee lead service line
after removal with the protective orthophosphate 
barrier clearly visible inside the pipe.

Photo credit: Isaac Wasserman/Wisconsin Watch


Homes with lead pipes show low levels of lead: 

Milwaukee Water Works regularly tests water at homes with lead service lines for the presence of lead. 

The federal Lead & Copper Rule requires utilities to test the water at residential properties for lead every three years. The graphs below provide a visual represenation of the results of these tests. Water Works conducts additional testing every year at properties when lead service lines are replaced, both before and after the service line replacement. 






Steps you can take to further reduce the risks from lead:

Flush your taps! Run the water daily for 3 minutes before using.

Independent lab tests of water collected from Milwaukee homes shows that running your tap for three minutes every morning (or anytime after water has been sitting still inside your lead service line for more than 6 hours) reduces the amount of lead in your water. A typical lead service line is less than 100 feet long, contains less than 5 gallons of water, and costs less than 2 cents to flush. Running your tap for three minutes clears the water that has been sitting in the service line and brings in fresh water from the water main. Water in Lak Michigan (our source water) and in Milwaukee's distribution system contain less than 1 part per billion of lead. The EPA's Action Level for lead is 15ppb. The EPA and public health experts recommend flushing as a proven method to reduce lead risks. 

Households with lead service lines whose occupants include the following persons should drink and cook only with tap water filtered with an NSF 53 certified filter:

  • Children under age six, especially infants that are fed forumula which is made with water.
  • Women who are pregnant or who are of child-bearing age. 
  • Women who are breastfeeding.

If you are not using a filter, drink and cook only with  water from your cold tap that has been flushed for at least three minutes. 

Recommendations for all who have a lead service line:

  • Drink and cook only with water from the cold water tap.
  • Run your cold for three minutes before drinking and cooking with it.
  • Regularly unscrew and rinse the screen, or aerator, on the end of each faucet. You can replace the same screen after rinsing it clean.
  • When there is ongoing construction in your area, such as water main replacement or other street and sewer projects, flush household plumbing at the end of each construction work day and when the project is completed. Find instructions here
  • Replace your lead service line and plumbing with copper.


Lead Service Line Replacement data:

Lead Service Lines replaced in 2023* = 1,016
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2022 = 991
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2021 = 986

Lead Service Lines replaced in 2020 = 888
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2019 = 1,000
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2018 = 933
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2017 = 622

Total: 2017 - October 13, 2023 = 6,436

*2023 figures reflect work completed as of 11/15/23

Check our records to see if a property has a lead service line


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

Water filters

Nutrition and health

Additional information


Click below for helpful documents that you can print at home:

Lead-Safe Water Guide brochure 

Guía del agua sin peligro de plomo


Customer Service Center
For billing and related questions: 


24-Hour Control Center
For water emergencies only:


  414-286-5452 (Fax)

Email: [email protected] 

 Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway, Room 406, Milwaukee, WI 53202

 Monday - Friday, 7:30 AM - 4:45 PM

Logo Lead-SafeMKE




logo Espanol Lead-SafeMke




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 leadFor 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

Quick Links

Please wait while we gather your results.
This site is powered by the Northwoods Titan Content Management System