Racine faced with mammoth task to replace lead pipes | The Daily Reporter – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-10-11 07:00:20 –

Lead from corroded pipes in Flint, Michigan has been partially condemned due to the public health crisis in poor areas. In Wisconsin, city officials like Racine will struggle for decades without a large amount of federal assistance to replace lead pipes that carry water to their inhabitants. (Siddhartharoy /

Racine Journal Times

Racine, Wisconsin (AP) — A little less than 11,000 bottles of water to approximately 80,000 residents in July when the city of Racine announced that it had received a $ 1.6 million grant through the state’s safe drinking water loan program. Had a lead pipe service line.

This grant will provide sufficient funding to replace the approximately 400 lead pipes that supply water to Racine’s inhabitants.

At that rate, it could take another 25 years to reach all lead pipe service lines on private land in the city.

The danger of lead to the human body has been well known for decades, but the process of removing old lead service lines from private property is slowing down, primarily due to lack of money.

According to a 2015 report by the Wisconsin Department of Health, tests on children across the state showed an increase in blood lead levels of 4.6%. According to the same report, the proportion of jurisdiction in the Racine City Public Health Service was 9% at age 1 and 10.2% at age 2, the Racine Journal Times reported.

By comparison, the proportion of children with elevated blood lead levels was 4.9% in Flint, Michigan, which is internationally known for its dangerously poor water quality.

Further testing in 2016 found that 5% of Wisconsin children (5 micrograms per deciliter) were actually lead poisoned due to too much lead in their blood, according to Michigan data. It was twice as much as the children of Flint. Of health and welfare services.

In short, Wisconsin water is often worse than Flint water.

It is understood across the aisle that a large amount of federal funding is likely to be required to completely replace all lead pipes in the United States.

At a virtual lunch hosted by on September 21, Senator Robert Cowles of R-Green Bay discussed Biden’s Buildback Better Agenda. And American family planning.

The second element, commonly known as the infrastructure bill, has a price tag of about $ 2 trillion, including $ 45 billion for lead pipe replacement.

Discussions on the bill are underway in Congress, Republicans do not support it, a few Democrats oppose it, and unless a few change their minds, it is virtually possible to pass it at this time. It’s impossible.

As Cowles pointed out, Wisconsin has been slowly handling lead pipes for a long time. He explained that what the federal fund offers is a way to move forward.

Some cities in Wisconsin are far more advanced. Madison promised to remove the last lead pipe service line in 2001 at a cost of less than $ 20 million. Green Bay is a project completed last year that has removed the remaining approximately 2,000 pipes in five years.

Other cities like Racine have a long way to go. For example, Milwaukee has about 70,000 dedicated lead pipe service lines that need to be replaced.

While the state awaits further funding, the city continues to monitor lead levels in drinking water, as required by federal law.

The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Parliament in 1974, but lead and copper regulations were added in 1991. LCR limits the concentration of copper and lead in consumer faucets. This is a difficult business because the municipality cannot force real estate owners to pay the thousands of dollars needed to replace lead pipes.

Also at issue are lead pipes, which are concentrated in old and poor areas where homeowners cannot afford to remove or replace pipes or bring in bottled water.

To determine the lead concentration, the municipality needs to test the water at the tap.

According to Joel Brunner, the director of the Racine Water Utility’s drinking water plant, the city needs to sample at least 50 sites with validated lead service lines each year.

If 90% of these results are less than 15 ppb, the utility is considered compliant.

Brunner explained that if the 90th percentile is above 15ppb, more sampling and public education is needed.

The Racine Water Authority is currently LCR compliant.

In 2021, the utility collected 53 samples with a tap. The average lead concentration was 2.6 ppb (median: 1.4 ppb, maximum: 20 ppb, minimum: 0.25 ppb, 90th percentile: 5.7 ppb).

Lead concentrations were well below the limits set by the LCR, but it is important to note that there are no safe levels of lead exposure.

The Environmental Protection Agency points out that the in vivo accumulation of lead, the toxin that accumulates inside the human body, can be particularly harmful to babies, children and pregnant mothers.

Even low levels of exposure can lead to learning disabilities, among other adverse health effects.

City public health supervisor Dottie-Kay Bowersox recommends that parents follow state guidance to test their children’s blood three times before the age of three and then once a year until the age of six. Did.

The city keeps an inventory of homes with lead pipes. Those who qualify for testing and pipe replacement grants will be contacted by the city.

Researchers began to understand the dangers of lead pipes to human health in the late 1800s, but pipes continued to be used well until the 1940s.

This was partly due to the systematic efforts of the lead pipe industry.

Richard Rabin, a researcher at the Massachusetts Occupational Safety and Health Union and an article on the abolished Lead Industry Association and efforts to promote lead, said lead pipes were recognized as a cause of lead poisoning in the late 1800s. I pointed out.

By the 1920s, he said, municipalities had begun to ban the use of lead pipes to supply drinking water.

“To counter this trend, the lead industry has launched a long-term and effective campaign to promote the use of lead pipes,” Rabin wrote in a 2008 report published in the American Journal of Public Health. I am.

The LIA campaign was launched in 1928 to influence plumbers, water authorities, architects, and federal authorities. The association has also published books and articles promoting lead pipes over other materials, ignoring the negative health effects. They talked about the benefits of lead, including a 35-year lifespan. On the other hand, the iron pipes that were popular at the time lasted only 16 years. Municipal financial savings were compelling, but only if they ignored or were blinded to the truth about the dangers of lead.

The LIA has also successfully led efforts to change local government ordinances in favor of lead pipes.

However, evidence of harm from lead pipes continued to grow until 1986, when Congress banned further use of lead pipes. The law did not include funding to eliminate lead pipe installations for 100 years.

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