Appleton plans to pay for replacing lead water service pipes on private property, using federal and state funds – Post-Crescent

APPLETON – There’s good news ahead for Appleton residents who have water service lines comprised of lead or galvanized steel leading into their homes.
City officials are developing a program that would use federal and state money, including $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), to cover the cost of replacing those pipes on private property.
The proposed program isn’t based on income and would be open to all property owners in the city who are identified as having lead or galvanized service lines.
“It’s a good deal,” Public Works Director Paula Vandehey told The Post-Crescent. “We’re excited. We thought it was a great use of the ARPA funds.”
The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion package designed to facilitate the nation’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Appleton will receive $14.9 million in ARPA funds, and using $1 million to replace lead service lines drew widespread support from the Common Council.
The allocation “directly impacts the health and well-being of a broad swath of the citizens of Appleton while serving to improve the infrastructure of the city,” council member Sheri Hartzheim said in an email to her colleagues.
In addition to the $1 million in ARPA funds, which must be spent by the end of 2024, Appleton is applying for a $500,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to enhance its replacement program.
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A water service line is a pipe that runs between a property’s water meter and the water utility’s curb stop, which is a shut-off valve usually located behind the curb on public property. The property owner is responsible for the maintenance and replacement of the service line up to the curb stop, and the water utility is responsible for everything from the curb stop to the water main.
Older water service lines commonly were made of lead, a toxic metal that can leach into drinking water and accumulate in the body over time, causing serious health problems, including brain damage in children. Other lines were made of galvanized steel, which can corrode and also contaminate drinking water.
The Environmental Protection Agency has set the goal for the maximum contaminant level of lead in drinking water at zero because lead can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.
The Appleton council recently passed an ordinance that requires property owners to replace lead or galvanized service lines, at the owner’s expense, within one year of written notification by the Appleton Water Utility. The vote was 14-0.
Previously, property owners weren’t required to replace lead service lines unless the lines leaked or failed. Then they had replaced the lines with another material like copper or plastic.
The new ordinance might have been a harder sell had the council not set aside the $1 million to pay for a property owner’s replacement, which typically costs $3,700 to $5,000.
“We will replace the lead service,” Vandehey said, “but the property owner will be responsible for any restoration costs such as basement flooring, flower beds, porches, etc.”
The program also won’t cover the replacement of lead pipes inside a home.
Appleton hired Arcadis, a consulting firm, to help develop the lead service line replacement program. It will be brought to the council for review early next year.
Lead service lines began to be phased out in the 1960s. There is no hard deadline for when their use was discontinued, however.
“We know if your house was built in the 1980s, you do not have a lead service,” Vandehey said.
Appleton has about 27,000 residential water service lines. About half of them have been inspected, identifying approximately 100 lead service lines in need of replacement.
Vandehey said the $1 million in ARPA money will be enough to replace all of the known lead service lines.
The remaining service lines in Appleton will be inspected by city staff in the next couple of years to determine how many additional lines must be replaced.
“We know that we’re going to find more,” Vandehey said. “That’s why we’re applying for the DNR grant. We’d like to be able to continue a program of financially helping to replace those lead services.”
In the past, Appleton has concentrated on replacing lead service lines owned by the water utility. The city has replaced several hundred of them in recent years and has 11 left to replace.
Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.