Wisconsin Senate Votes to Get the Lead Out

Andrew Klutey
Nov 3, 2017 · 2 min read

This week brought exciting news in Environment America’s Get the Lead Out campaign, as the Wisconsin senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow water utilities to pay for the removal of lead service lines.

Service lines are the pipes that bring water from the main in the street to a home, business or school (see the diagram below). When these service lines are made of lead (known as lead service lines or LSL’s), they are the single largest source of lead contamination of water, including in Flint. In Wisconsin, there are an estimated 176,000 LSLs, which means a lot of lead is getting into the drinking water in the Badger State.

A helpful diagram from the city of Milwaukee of service lines’ role in water delivery systems (http://city.milwaukee.gov/water/WaterQuality/Lead-Awareness-and-Drinking-Water-Safety.htm#.Wfx9ZxNSyRs)

The best way to Get the Lead Out of that drinking water is to remove these LSLs. But many states, including Wisconsin, have barriers blocking water utilities from spending ratepayer money to remove this toxic threat, since LSLs are often privately owned. This puts the cost to replace LSLs (on average, a $3,000 cost per line) on homeowners, landlords, and business owners, making replacement less likely.

So this year, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, Wisconsin Environment, and other environmental groups have been campaigning to pass a bill that would allow utilities to allocate and raise funds for LSL replacement.

Not everyone has been supportive: the bill has been opposed by industry groups and dramatically weakened as it passed through the state assembly. But the focus has remained on the Senate version, SB48, as the best hope for a strong bill to Get the Lead Out.

This week, SB48 passed unanimously with bipartisan support. This is an important step in our campaign, but our victory is by no means assured. Now we have to make sure that the strong senate bill, rather than the weak assembly one, comes out of the legislature and is signed by Governor Walker.

If you’re interested in learning more about the problem of lead in our drinking water, and how you can help, you can check out our “Back to School Toolkit” for more information on how to ensure safe drinking water in schools across the country.

Andrew Klutey

Written by

Campaign Coordinator @envam. I write about #cleanwater and #climatechange. I like books, coffee, and the great outdoors. Opinions are my own.

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