MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Water Works has developed a new plan to prioritize replacing lead service lines in the city’s most disadvantaged areas.

The Equity Prioritization Plan will determine which neighborhoods have the greatest need by balancing three criteria: the neighborhood’s score on a socio-economic index, called the Area Deprivation Index, the density of lead service lines in the area, and the incidence of elevated blood lead levels of children in the area.

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Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Patrick Pauly said the plan will allow crews to replace an additional 500 lead pipes per year on a block-by-block basis in neighborhoods with the greatest need.

Each neighborhood will be given a score based on a number of socioeconomic factors, such as income, education, employment and housing quality.

“Primarily the lead service lines are found in the near north side, near south side — some of the areas in the community that have the greatest need,” said Pauly.

Wyatt Klumb is a water service crew foreperson. He said water that flows through these service lines can carry lead into the homeowners’ drinking water, which is unsafe, especially for children. 

(Spectrum News 1/Katarina Velazquez)

He works with homeowners to plan their service time and date. 

“When they hear that it’s lead service replacement, they are extremely excited and almost commend us for what we are doing,” said Klumb. 

Pauly said there are still 65,000 lead service lines that need to be replaced. 

“We’ve replaced over 5,500 in the last six years,” he said. “There’s a need to increase that progress.” 

The state of Wisconsin was awarded federal funding for water projects in 2022 through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

(Spectrum News 1/Katarina Velazquez)

“Certainly, one of the hurdles to replacing services has been funding,” said Pauly. “The fact that the federal government has specifically allocated funding to lead service lines through the EPA is wonderful news for us.” 

Pauly said Water Works will be rolling out this plan to elected officials and the community in the next few months. They hope to move forward with it in 2024.

You can see if your home or apartment has a lead service line, here.