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Milwaukee officials start lead-awareness campaign

Milwaukee officials have launched a public-awareness campaign in an effort to further prevent residents, especially children, from being exposed to lead.

Any residence built before 1978 is likely to contain lead paint, and homes built before 1952 are likely to get water from lead service lines. The awareness campaign announced Friday recommends various steps families can take to better protect themselves from the dangers associated with lead exposure.

These include: running cold tap water for at least three minutes to bring in fresh water from a water main; using disposable wet cloths to clean up paint flakes and dust from windows, floors and toys; and testing children for lead three times before they turn 3.

The campaign comes after city officials last year came up with a method for replacing the more than 70,000 lead service lines that are believed to exist in the city. The new ordinance, signed in December by Mayor Tom Barrett, requires property owners to replace the part of pipes running underneath their lots when the city replaces its own side.

The replacements would largely occur in two scenarios: When a pipe is found to be leaking, or when the city crews are doing work in the area.

As part of the mandate, the city will also help qualified property owners pay for the costs associated with replacing the lead pipes. Property owners will be responsible for paying a third of the replacement costs, up to a total of $1,600. They can also choose to finance the improvements by paying special assessments to the city over the course of 10 years.

Milwaukee’s 2017 budget has about $11 million set aside for lead-abatement work, including the removal of lead paint from homes and the replacement of lead pipes on private properties.

Outside Milwaukee, various state lawmakers are similarly considering a proposal to encourage the replacement of lead pipes.

Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, introduced a bill on Thursday that would let municipalities grant water utilities the authority to provide loans to customers who want to replace lead service lines at their homes or businesses.

The arrangements could take many forms, including low-interest or no-interest loans.

Lead service lines have been in the national spotlight ever since scientists found that residents of Flint, Mich., had elevated levels of lead in their bloodstreams after the toxic metal had leached into their water from pipes.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

About Alex Zank, [email protected]

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

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