Milwaukee Homeowners To Pay Part of Cost to Replace Pipes

Milwaukee homeowners will have to pick up a third of the cost to replace old, unhealthy lead pipes.

Milwaukee’s new plan was approved by the Common Council on Tuesday as part of a new ordinance to begin replacing lead pipes that leak or break. Lead lateral pipes could pose a health risk to the city’s young children who live in older homes.

The Common Council voted 12-3 for a plan to replace lead pipes leading to older homes, but work will be done only when there’s a water leak emergency or water main repairs are required.

The average price to a homeowner would be $1,600. That represents a third of the total average cost to run new water lines to a home.

“Coming up with that kind of money would really be a hardship,” Alice Giggar said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the impact of the cost to a homeowner would be softened by spreading the payments out over 10 years.

When Barrett was asked about the cost to economically challenged families he said that’s why they’re allowing a homeowner to pay over 10 years.

“Roughly $160 per year, and you divide that by 12, and you’re looking at maybe $12 or $13 a month, maybe a cup or two of coffee a week.”

The city would pick up the balance, two-thirds, or an estimated $3,200 of the total cost of $4,800.

Freshwater for Life Action Coalition Spokesperson, Robert Miranda stated: “Even though Common Council voted to pass the Mayor’s proposal based on the opinion of the City Attorney that ownership/responsibility of the lead laterals on the homeowners side is property of the homeowner, I have forwarded the City Attorney’s opinion to a lawyer from EarthJustice based in Washington DC., who is an expert on lead lateral ownership issues and who informed me that she will review the City Attorney’s opinion and let me know where we stand.” Miranda said.

The group believes the lead pipes are property of the City of Milwaukee.

Miranda continued to say that if the lawyers at Earthjustice believe there is a case, he will be inviting them to Milwaukee to bring the matter before the courts to block homeowners from paying any amount to replace the lead pipes.

State-licensed day cares will be the first to get the new pipes, and work will begin next year.

The city recommends that families who live in homes with lead service lines and who have children under the age of 6 (especially bottle-fed infants) and/or pregnant or breastfeeding women consider using a drinking water filter certified to remove lead.

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