Milwaukee to join EPA lead pipe replacement effort

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Milwaukee has submitted its application to participate in a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiative to help cities and towns replace leading utility lines.

The EPA announced the Get the Lead Out (GLO) initiative on November 7, in which the agency will work with approximately 200 underserved communities and support local leaders in developing lead pipe replacement plans. The funding comes through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which celebrated its second anniversary this year.

Lead exposure is linked to brain and nervous system damage, cardiovascular disease and other health problems, particularly in children.

The city has submitted an application and will wait for confirmation from the EPA, a city spokesman said. The initiative will help urban areas identify critical utilities, develop replacement plans and apply for grants to ensure safe drinking water, federal officials said.

The federal government’s investment is consistent with Milwaukee’s existing equity goals, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said in a statement.

“The Biden Administration’s continued focus on equity is closely aligned with the goals of the City of Milwaukee’s Equity Prioritization Plan, through which we work closely with our local community to remove leading utilities in underserved neighborhoods and the health of all Milwaukee residents to protect.” Johnson added.

Johnson, who serves as co-chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Mayors Commission, noted that the coalition welcomed the Biden administration’s action. The coalition consists of approximately 244 mayors from various US and Canadian cities.

Here is the type of action the GLO initiative will support.

  • Lead service line inventories that meet the 2021 Lead and Copper Rules Revision request deadline required to determine a city or town’s funding needs
  • Community engagement plans that invite community input, provide educational resources, and engage with impacted community members
  • Lead Service Line Replacement Plans to create a roadmap for 100% identification and complete replacement of service lines in public and private locations
  • State Revolving Fund (SRF) applications to help communities finance utility line replacement. Officials noted that each technical assistance recipient will receive a tailored plan for their work with the state

According to the Cities Initiative, BIL committed $15 billion over five years to replace leading service lines. The law came into force in November 2021.

White House officials said the BIL provided Wisconsin about $369 million for water infrastructure improvements and security. In total, the EPA provided $336 million.

Of that total, $129.5 million was spent on replacing lead pipes and utility lines, White House officials added. An additional $66.7 million was allocated to investments in safe drinking water, including replacing lead pipes.

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