Identifying and replacing residential water lines made of lead has been a priority in Lake Mills in the past three years. A recently completed initial inventory of lead service lines in the city has revealed some useful information.
The purpose of doing the inventory is to reduce residents’ exposure to lead by facilitating the removal of lead service lines (LSL) and reduce exposure to lead.
The process to identify which homes have lead water lines started in 2017 when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) required Lake Mills Light & Water (LML&W) to determine the location of LSL by identifying the water line material where it entered the water meter.
There are two parts to the water line at each home: the section of pipe from the water main to the water control valve is the responsibility of the utility to maintain. The section of pipe from the control valve to the residence is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain. Because water meters are typically located in the basement completing this task meant contacting homeowners to set a time to access their water meter.
“Our first reaction was that this was going to be an overwhelming and expensive task,” according to Paul Hermanson, director of public works. “But as we got into it, we found it to be a very valuable effort.”
Extensive research into the history of the city’s water system showed that the majority of potential LSL would be in the areas of the city developed prior to 1970. Consequently, about 40 percent of the 2,235 homes in the city could be removed from the inspection list.
Ultimately, approximately 387 homes out of 1,400 inspected (about 27%) showed LSL at the water meter. Additionally, it was determined that nearly all the LSL found were at buildings constructed prior to 1935.
As a result of the City’s efforts to identify and help fund removal of LSL approximately 128 resident-owned water lines have been changed. Correspondingly, LML&W has replaced approximately 139 utility-owned lead services.
The overall cost to the utility to complete the inventory project and replace the utility-owned portion of the service lines over the past two years has been about $730,000.
“Identifying and replacing lead water lines is definitely expensive” said Hermanson. “It is something we are required to do, but most importantly, it is reducing people’s exposure to lead.”
The mission to remove LSL in Lake Mills will continue, according to Hermanson. The DNR and LML&W are working together to determine how to best proceed with removing all LSL in the city as encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency.