The Wisconsin Public Service Commission on Thursday approved letting local officials in Kenosha County use water fees for the first time to help customers pay for replacing lead water lines.
The program, established by Wisconsin Act 137, which was passed in 2017, allows water utilities to use rate revenue to help customers replace lead water pipes found on their properties. Although the Public Service Commission has no need to approve the replacement of the parts of lead pipes that are owned directly by utilities, it does have a say over programs that provide customers with grants or loans to replace their own water lines.
The Kenosha Water Utility plans to embark soon on its lead-line-replacement program. The utility must report back to the Public Service Commission in years on the programs’ finances.
It’s estimated that 112 of the 578 drinking-water utilities found in Wisconsin still have lead water lines. And it’s likely, too, that even more customer-owned lines are made of lead.
“Safe drinking water is of the utmost importance to Wisconsinites, and we must do all we can to grant our local governments and utilities the tools they need to provide adequate services to their customers,” said Chairman Lon Roberts, chairman of the Public Service Commission. “Challenging issues like lead service line replacement will take time to address. I am happy to see municipalities begin to make use of this new tool, and I look forward to a continued collaborative effort between water utilities, customers, the PSC, and various other stakeholders to eradicate lead from service lines.”