The city of Stoughton is a month and a half into replacing all of its lead pipelines. Stoughton Utilities Director Jill Weiss says the city is set to finish up with the project this fall — under budget and ahead of schedule.
“Actually, just before you called I was out on site taking some pictures and seeing what they’re doing out there,” she says. “There are a number of streets that aren’t passable because of those lead service lines being replaced at this very moment.”
In 2019, six out of thirty tested drinking water sites in Stoughton had elevated levels of lead. Under state policy, that meant that the city was required to conduct annual testing going forward.
But, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on last year’s testing, and the city has yet to conduct sampling for 2021.
Stoughton leaders initially budgeted about three million dollars to replace their lead pipelines. Weiss says that, thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and a few other factors, the project’s cost estimate currently stands at $2.1 million.
The DNR grant will go towards replacing lead pipes on private property. Weiss says that the city can only mandate replacing piping that is public infrastructure — it’s up to property owners to decide whether or not to replace pipes on their property.
“Because of the situation we’re in and the opportunity that grant provided to us,” Weiss says. “The private customer doesn’t have any cost that comes to them for having those pipes replaced.”
Lead pipes are a systemic issue in America’s cities.
Madison was a forerunner in replacing lead pipes, beginning the decade-long process at the beginning of the 2000s. The project cost about twenty million dollars, and resulted in the removal of about 8,000 lead lines.
According to Madison’s annual water quality report, which was issued earlier today, a majority of Madison’s drinking water fell below 3.2 parts per billion for lead contamination last year. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking remedial action at concentrations at or above 15 parts per billion.
Most cities, though, still struggle to deal with lead service lines.
Over in Milwaukee removing lead pipelines has proven a Herculean task. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the cost of removing that city’s lead service lines could be nearly a billion dollars. At Milwaukee’s current rate of lead line removal, the process may not be completed until 2090.
PHOTO: Jos Speetjens / Unsplash