OnFocus – Lead water services and associated health concerns have become a hot topic in communities across the United States. Most lead services in Marshfield Utilities (MU) territory were installed until the late 1960s. Lead pipes were used because of its pliable qualities yet it maintains strength for a long time. Every three years, MU completes water lead level testing to meet DNR and EPA requirements. Since beginning a directional flushing program, the test results have always met the requirements.
In an effort to quantify the customer lead services, MU developed a plan to identify the service pipe material while installing new AMI water meters. 225 customer lead services were identified and each of those customers were notified.
MU was awarded in total $500,000 in grant money from the DNR to use toward the replacement of the customer portion of lead service lines. Customers have the opportunity to receive up to a $3000 reimbursement for a replacement. The average service line replacement cost is $3500. The grant money must be used by 2020, so it is important for customers who have been identified to respond promptly to take advantage of this opportunity.
To date, 62 customers have either had their service replaced or have applied and been approved for a service upgrade. The customer’s portion typically extends from the home to the sidewalk, while MU owns the portion of the water service from the sidewalk to the water main located under the street. As part of the grant program MU must also replace MU’s portion of the service if lead. Each service replacement costs MU approximately $5,000, with a majority of this cost being attributed to the street repairs. MU’s cost is not eligible for any of the grant.
In late February, Governor Walker signed SB 48, the “Leading on Lead Bill” which creates two additional options for assisting private property owners with the replacement of lead service lines. Option one is a municipal loan program using special charges. The bill allows a city, village, town, or county to replace an owner’s private lead service line, and collect loan repayments from the property owner in installments through special charges included on the property owner’s tax bill. Option two is a water utility program funded by utility rates which allows a water public utility to establish a program to provide property owners with financial assistance in replacing their lead service lines provided certain conditions are met.
With either option the city must enact an ordinance that requires every property owner with a private lead service line to replace that line. Also, in both options if assistance is provided in the form of a loan and a property owner is delinquent in the loan replacement, the delinquency may be placed on the property owner’s tax bill. Any assistance program provided by the water utility must be approved by the Public Service Commission – Wisconsin.
The short term goal is to ensure 100% utilization of the DNR-W grant. “The bill signed by the governor only allows for a partial loan to be provided, while the grant money covers 75% of the average cost,” stated John Richmond, MU’s Water Manager. “There has been an emphasis on lead services line replacement at the state and national level. In the future, all lead service will likely be required to be replaced. We hope that as many customers as possible take advantage of this great grant opportunity now.”
Once the grant program is completed MU will reevaluate the quantity of customer lead services and focus on eliminating all customer lead services.
Customers with questions or concerns in regard to the lead service line replacement program should contact John Richmond, Water Manager at 715-898-2170.
Marshfield Utilities is a progressive customer-focused organization providing value and resources to the community. Operating since 1904, Marshfield Utilities now has more than 13,800 electrical customers and 8,300 water customers and is a stabilizing presence in the community. For more information, please visit www.marshfieldutilities.org or look for us on https://www.facebook.com/marshfieldutilities/.