Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources plans to make $11.8 million in loans available to municipalities this summer to help remove old lead service lines that can bring tainted drinking water into homes.
Changes in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules made the money available. It would pay for replacement of pipes on private property that are not the responsibility of municipal water systems.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said there is no safe lead level for children. Even very small amounts can accumulate and cause irreversible brain damage, slowed growth and, in rare cases, death, federal officials say.
Nearly 1,400 water systems serving 3.6 million Americans exceeded federal lead standards at least once since Jan. 1, 2013, an Associated Press analysis of U.S. EPA records recently found.
In Wisconsin, 64 systems exceeded limits, including utilities in Stoughton, Neenah and Racine; schools such as Rock County Christian in Janesville and Woods in Lake Geneva; and state properties including the Veterans Home at King.
“The Lead Service Line Replacement Funding program, the first of its kind in the region, reflects DNR’s commitment to safe drinking water and addresses the financial barriers facing communities where lead service lines continue to deliver drinking water to residences, schools and licensed day care centers,” the DNR said in a statement Thursday.
“Wisconsin is again in the lead, moving rapidly to implement solutions that address the needs of communities and individuals,” DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said. “Governor Scott Walker asked us to rise to the challenge of helping the most communities possible and by using the funding available, we have taken a significant step forward to ensure clean, safe drinking water across the state.”
A public comment period recently ended. The agency set June 30 as the deadline for municipalities to apply for funding that could be delivered in late August.
“One specific change to our initial proposal includes increasing funding from $750,000 to $1,000,000 for the largest municipal category, which includes the city of Milwaukee,” Stepp said. “In order to protect one of our most vulnerable populations, our children, the costs for replacing private lead service lines to licensed day care centers and schools are not subject to this cap. We estimate this could bring an additional $1.8 million in private lead service line replacement funding for the city of Milwaukee.”