First Municipal Customer Side Lead Pipe Removal Program Approved

On Aug. 16, the Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the state’s first municipal customer side lead pipe removal program. In March, Gov. Scott Walker signed the Leading on Lead Act (Act 136) into law, thereby paving the way for water utilities to provide financial assistance to replace water laterals on private property containing lead.  The law requires a municipal ordinance to be passed authorizing the financial assistance, requires PSC approval, and provides various parameters for a grant or loan under the program.

Passing the municipal ordinance in April, the City of Kenosha was the first municipality to then apply to PSC to establish a program. The PSC commissioners reviewed the docket and various staff recommendations regarding Kenosha’s proposed program. Among several recommended conditions, PSC staff recommended Kenosha extend its program to include customer side service lines that are galvanized pipes and that are “currently or previously connected to utility side lead service lines.” PSC commissioners considered this recommendation but decided to maintain the local flexibility to determine if galvanized pipes be included in a replacement program. However, the commissioners decided to require Kenosha to submit a full rate case within two years.

Kenosha’s program will provide the property owner a grant for 50 percent of the cost of the replacement up to a maximum of $2,000. The rest of the cost can be covered by loans, which property owners would repay over ten years as a special charge on their property tax bill. It is estimated that there are approximately 8,809 utility-side and approximately 2,149 customer side lead service lines in Kenosha’s system.

With the approval of the first program, it is expected several other municipalities will follow suit and establish their own programs.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that at least 176,000 lead service lines connect homes to the municipal water mains in Wisconsin.