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Milwaukee mayor wants even more lead service lines replaced in 2018

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants to replace even more lead water-service lines next year than in 2017.

In introducing his 2018 budget proposal to the Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday, Barrett said there is still a long way to go toward meeting the city’s goal of eliminating the health hazards that residents, especially children, face when they are exposed to lead.

“We all agree that reducing lead is a high priority for Milwaukee’s public health,” Barrett said, noting that this year the city-owned utility Milwaukee Water Works has “aggressively implemented a new program” to fully replace service lines that provide drinking water to day cares, residences and businesses.

The department is now on track to replace more than 600 lead service lines in 2017. He said that 383 have already been dealt with so far and the rest are under contract to be replaced by year’s end.

All told, the city’s 2017 budget called for the replacement of nearly 400 service lines at daycares, and another 300 or so residential lines that were found to be leaking or otherwise failing.

Barrett said he wants to move even faster in the future.

“In 2018, we will scale the program up to replace 800 lead services lines, with plans to continue increasing our target in future years,” he said. “I am proposing a total (Milwaukee) Water Works funding package of about $8.8 million for these programs in 2018.”

Barrett also proposed adding nearly $500,000 to the Health Department’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which would bring the program’s funding total up to nearly $3 million. Among other things, this program provides residents with money they can use to hire contractors to replace windows coated with lead paint.

Last year, Milwaukee officials adopted an ordinance setting up a system for eventually replacing all of the more than 70,000 lead service lines found in the city.

The system requires property owners to replace the pipes that run underneath their lots when the city replaces its own side of those same lines. The replacements would largely occur under two scenarios: When a pipe is found to be leaking, or when the city is performing infrastructure improvements nearby.

Barrett’s budget presentation on Tuesday was mostly about paying for police and fire-fighting services. To help increase revenue in those two parts of the budget, Barrett  has asked Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature to allow Milwaukee to increase the local sales tax by half a percent.

About Alex Zank, alex.zank@dailyreporter.com

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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