Mayor Barrett’s proposing homeowners pay for crisis created by city

The Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, is proposing that Milwaukee homeowners pay as much as $1,600 for removing lead lateral pipes, also known as lead lateral service lines, contaminating drinking and cooking water as the city removes old water mains.

The City of Milwaukee attorney’s office states that lead lateral pipes on private property connecting to the city water main are the property of the homeowner. Notice: The city regulated mandate of 1872 stated that lead lateral pipes are to be connected from the city water main to the building. NOT from the building (home) to the city water main.

The Freshwater for Life Action Coalition (FLAC) opposes Mayor Barrett’s proposal and disagrees with the opinion of the City Attorney. What legal basis does the city have for charging homeowners any money at all? Where’s the proof that homeowners own the “private” portion of the lead lateral service line? Where’s the proof that homeowners had any choice in installing lead lateral pipes? Why is it assumed that homeowners should be paying anything at all for city mandated infrastructure?

These questions are based on the fact that the Milwaukee Water Department of 1872 mandated that lead lateral pipes be used to connect service lines from the city water main to the home. The Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) states that homes built before 1951 have lead lateral pipes and that homes built after 1951 were banned from using lead lateral pipes. However, FLAC has yet to find or receive requested documentation from the MWW that would confirm that lead lateral pipes were banned after 1951.

Clearly Milwaukee laid lead lateral pipes during the late 1800’s up until the middle 1900’s. The City of Milwaukee mandated lead lateral pipes to be used despite the fact that it was known in the middle 1800’s the potential toxicity of lead from water and the danger these toxic pipes presented to the population. These concerns have been well documented even before lead lateral pipes came into widespread use for water distribution. You can read more about that here.

Fast forward to 2016, and today Milwaukee homeowners face being forced to pay to remove lead lateral pipes from their property. When the city or a water utility installs a water meter on the “private” property of a homeowner, is that meter now the property of the homeowner? Are homeowners to be charged for replacement meters when one is needed? The pipes were mandated and connected from the main to the home. If the meter still belongs to the city or water utility, don’t these pipes still belong to the city too?

We say homeowners do not own these lead lateral pipes based on the 1872 document.

Mayor Barrett’s lead lateral pipe replacement proposal is woefully misleading

Tomorrow, Milwaukee’s Common Council will vote on Mayor Barrett’s proposal to place additional financial burden on homeowners throughout the city; eventually burdening renters and other occupiers of these homes in the city to pay up to $1,600 when lead lateral pipes require replacement due to either leaking or the Barrett administration’s most recent decision to replace lead lateral pipes in daycares throughout the city.

A cost that could fully be paid for by the City of Milwaukee if Mayor Barrett, city bureaucrats, and Barrett’s aldermanic surrogates were not so dead set on only investing in downtown streetcars for futuristic millennials or subsidizing sports complexes for New York billionaires and other downtown luxuries.

Last week FLAC delivered a letter to all of the Milwaukee Common Council members detailing several options that the City of Milwaukee could pursue to pay for the replacement of all homes with lead lateral pipes at no cost to the homeowners. You can read the letter here.

In that letter, FLAC asked that Common Council members vote “No” on Mayor Barrett’s proposed plan to remove lead lateral pipes to homes that are leaking and to the daycares that the Barrett administration has identified as having lead lateral pipes after receiving the city’s share of State of Wisconsin funding to replace lead lateral pipes in low income communities because of the proposal’s required financial burden placed upon homeowners.

Let’s be very clear about the Mayor’s proposal, it is not a comprehensive plan to remove all lead lateral pipes in the city of Milwaukee, which is desperately needed. Once again, this is just a proposal for the over 300 daycares with lead lateral pipes and homes with lead lateral pipes that are leaking and require emergency lead lateral pipe replacements.

We look at that this as a “gateway” proposal for Mayor Barrett to later force homeowners to pay for a portion of lead lateral pipe replacement in the future; understanding that if a comprehensive plan is put in place, at a later date, to replace all of the lead lateral pipes in the city, they will already have a financial model in place to force homeowners to pay for a portion of removing lead lateral pipes.

Homeowners have paid enough. Tens of thousands of Milwaukee residents drinking water contaminated by lead lateral pipes has cost this community in failing schools, increased violent crime in our streets and high infant mortality.

Enough is enough already!

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