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Kenosha offers help to homeowners with lead pipes

Posted at 5:33 PM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-18 18:33:45-04

KENOSHA -- Kenosha homeowners with lead water pipes are the first in Wisconsin to get them replaced using the city's money.

Until this summer, it was illegal for a city to pay for the replacement of homeowners' lead pipes because the city doesn't own them. A new state law means Kenosha can offer help to those who qualify. 

A young family of three had no idea their red brick home built in 1908 had lead water service pipes until they broke this summer. Selena Mercado immediately worried for her 13-month-old son Leonardo's health. 

"(I was) very concerned to the point where I stopped pretty much using all water around the house," she said. "I didn't even like giving him baths."

Mercado's concerns grew when she realized the replacement would cost $4,000. That was until she heard of a new program in Kenosha. 

"They literally broke up my entire basement floor, took out the pipe and re-patched my basement," she said.  

On Tuesday morning, they stood in the front of the line to pull out their lead service pipe. Ed St. Peter with Kenosha Water Utility led the city's efforts to become the first in the state to implement this grant and loan system. 

"We grant them 50 percent of the cost, so this home cost $4,000 to do the lead service on the customer side," St. Peter explained. "We paid them $2,000 to the plumber and then we loaned them $2,000 to pay for the rest of it."

St. Peter said they've budgeted to help 200-300 homeowners each year. 

"If you have a child under 7-years-old, if one of the people in the house is pregnant, if there are some other health issues, obviously if there's a leak," St. Peter said. 

If your home was built before the 1950s, there's a good chance it still has lead service pipes. This new program in Kenosha requires the city to contact every homeowner that does.