New ordinance requires replacement of lead pipes

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 5:22 PM CST
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It was about four years ago in Flint, Michigan, when lead was discovered in the municipal water supply causing several deaths and even more long term ailments.

Because of that, Eau Claire city officials say limiting the use of lead pipes has been their top priority.

Director of Community Services, Jeff Pippenger, says some of Eau Claire’s city water pipes are more than 100 years old.

"We have approximately 792 lead service lines that are remaining on the city side of the service,” he said.

But there are even more on private property.

"On the customer side, that number is a little larger because prior to 2017, we were replacing old water mains that had lead lines associated with them and not all property owners replaced those at that time,” Pippenger said.

On Tuesday, the city council passed a new ordinance that will replace all lead service lines over the next 15 years, starting with the area around Chippewa Street and Second Avenue, and eventually moving to other parts of the city.

"The new ordinance ensures that the public portion and private portion are replaced at the same time,” said Kate Beaton of the Eau Claire City Council.

The new ordinance will also provide funding for home owners to replace their old pipes using federal grants, with the average price of replacement being around $2,400.

"Our people will work with individuals to kind of establish their funding need, but as a baseline, everyone in the city is entitled to $2,000 for replacement of that lead piping,” Beaton said.

The old pipes are lined with a small lining of lead, and when the city treats the water, they use liquid lime to coat the inside of the pipe and make sure the lead lining never gets exposed.

Pippenger says if that lining were to get exposed, there could be major consequences to the city's drinking water and your health.

"It causes learning disabilities, brain damage, and damage to the nervous system,” Pippenger said. “In some cases it can even cause damage to the kidneys and high levels for a long period of time can even cause death.”

Beaton says people should not be alarmed, as the old pipes are still working just fine.

"Folks shouldn't panic if they see that their house does have lead but they are free to call city staff and work through any questions and concerns that they have,” she said.

For a map that highlights the areas still using lead pipe water mains,

The map is on page 100 of the Eau Claire City Council January, 14th meeting packet.