Mayor signs ordinance pushing lead pipe removal in Milwaukee further

Posted at 8:06 PM, Dec 20, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Mayor Tom Barrett signed an ordinance Tuesday authorizing the replacement of lead water service lines in the city, but the cost isn't free to property owners.

"The ordinance [will] allow the city to move forward in working to really help the property owners be a part of the solution," Mayor Barrett said. "This is what Flint didn't do."

According to Mayor Barrett, the city's new lead pipe removal ordinance is a proactive attempt at addressing a major city concern. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce exposure of all sources of lead in the community. That's something Milwaukee resident Bobby Johnson said he supports.

"If you get on [something like this], and stay on top of it, it will change," Johnson said. "But if you get on it and let it die down, it's not going to change," he continued.

Johnson is not a homeowner, he's a tenant in an apartment on Milwaukee's northwest side. Johnson thinks it's a good thing landlords are required to help contribute financially to this effort.

"It's his [responsibility] to take care of his own building," Johnson said.

"That's what they need to do instead of the tenants taking care of what they need to take care of, I don't think it's right," he continued.

Mayor Barrett and the city of Milwaukee agree. Under the signed ordinance, Milwaukee Water Works will replace leaking and damaged lead service lines at eligible residential properties, but it does come at a cost that some people may not want to pay.

"This is going to be mandatory," Mayor Barrett said.

"We want it to be mandatory because, unfortunately, we have some absentee landlords [who may not make] this a high priority," he continued.

The owner's share of the cost can be paid over 10 years and will average $16/month for each property. Property owners will also be required to replace a leaking or damaged lead service line with copper at their expense.

"What we believe very strongly [is]  that if you do just the public service lateral, and not the private lateral, that's probably worse than doing nothing," Mayor Barrett said.

The city plans to replace lead service lines with copper at all (385) state licensed day cares in the city and eight private schools in 2017. 

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