At least 150,000 Wisconsin homes still have lead water service lines, although the number could be as high as 450,000, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
A new Wisconsin DNR program is giving out $63 million dollars to help homeowners replace those lines.
Cities can apply for the grant money, then pass it along to homeowners to replace lead service lines into their homes.
Outside of programs like this one, homeowners are generally responsible for the cost of replacing lines underneath their own property, which can cost thousands of dollars.
“Many of these utilities have removed the utility side of the lead service line, but if the private side is still lead, there is still lead going into peoples’ homes, still lead in their drinking water,” said Becky Scott, a federal liaison and policy analyst for the DNR’s revolving fund programs.
Scott oversaw a similar program in 2017 and 2018, in which dozens of communities used $27 million in public money to replace private lead lines.
“We decided to sort of continue on what we had built in that previous program,” Scott said.
During that time, some cities, including Mosinee, actually required homeowners to replace lead lines if they were found.
“We’re not requiring that they pass a mandatory replacement ordinance, but we are greatly encouraging it, and will actually provide some funding for the cost developing that ordinance,” Scott said.
Cities can now apply for a piece of the $63 million being offered through the state.
Lead exposure, including through drinking water, can damage the brain, nervous system, blood, and kidneys.