Common council approves plan to replace aging lead pipes in Milwaukee

Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 21:51:50-05
Milwaukee Common Council members approved a new plan to replace aging lead pipes in the water system but property owners will have to dig into their own pockets to pay for it. 

The ordinance was discussed and ultimately passed by common council members Monday afternoon.

Back in February, the city notified 70,000 homeowners that they have lead service lines leading to the water main and their water may register low levels of lead as a result. 

While the city stresses that Milwaukee's water is clean and safe to drink, those with lead pipes may experience leaks or other failures that could contaminate their drinking water. 

With this new plan, the city will begin replacing pipes on an emergency basis next year. 

Chris Adams said he and his brother have owned their Riverwest home since the late 80's and do have concerns over possible lead contamination in their water. 

He said if the city needed to replace his pipes, he would understand sharing the cost. 

"We'd favor replacing those even if we have to pay half or whatever we'd favor that," Adams said. 

According to the city, property owners own half of the water service line leading from the curb to their home while the city owns the other half that connects to the water main. 

Under this ordinance, the entire water service line, including the privately owned part, would need to be replaced in the event of an emergency leak. 

But the city has set up a system where the homeowner would only pay one-third of the cost with a cap at $1,600.

And the ordinance states the cost would be a special assessment, payable over a 10-year period with interest, meaning it would be roughly an additional $164 a year. 

The city has already set aside $3.6 million in next year's budget to begin replacing lead service lines at schools and daycares. 

In 2017, only property owners who encounter an emergency leak or failure would be required to replace their line. 

In 2018, the city will then shift its focus to replacing these lead service lines on a non-emergency basis.