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Strategies for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water

Alderman/Bohl Release White Paper for City of Milwaukee

No one wants our children to drink water contaminated by lead. We naturally find the thought abhorrent and want something, anything, done. So often we want simple solutions and replacing lead service lines seems like an easy answer. The problem is that lead in water isa complex issue and not an easy one. Lead service lines have become public enemy number one in the lead water narrative and the notion that their replacement eliminates the problem of lead in the water is a perception that many hold.

The cost of completed lead line replacement in the city is exorbitant. Early estimates placed the figure at upwards of $750 million for completed service line replacement in current dollars, and a recent estimate by DPW pegs the cost at over $1 billion. The sporadic work conducted across the city in 2017, not having achieved an economy of scale, has been given as $13,100 per line in replacement cost. Given the present annual spending levels and anticipated future replacements over the next few years, it will take the city somewhere between 75-100 years to complete the work. Also, and this is critically important, the replacement of service lines does not come close to eliminating all possible sources of water-delivered lead exposure, which includes significant sources of interior lead in most homes in the city, and may also impact homes never having a lead service line and even homes of more recent construction.

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Mass Rural Water Association

781 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA 01360

Phone: 413-498-5779

Fax: 413-498-9943