Wisconsin set to receive $139M for drinking water infrastructure upgrades


Wisconsin is ready to obtain round $139 million to improve ingesting water infrastructure later this yr, and greater than half of that cash will go towards changing lead service traces.

The Wisconsin Division of Pure Sources is slated to obtain the cash in October as a part of annual funding for the state’s Secure Consuming Water Mortgage Program. The cash consists of supplemental funding as a part of $6 billion awarded nationwide via the bipartisan infrastructure legislation for initiatives to make sure secure ingesting water.

This system offers low-interest loans for communities and principal forgiveness, which the DNR stated is basically grant funding that does not must be paid again. The state usually receives round $20 million in base funding for this system from the Environmental Safety Company, in response to Jim Ritchie, director of the DNR’s Bureau of Group Monetary Help.

The most important enhance this yr is funding for lead line substitute. Final yr, Wisconsin acquired $48.3 million to switch lead traces. This yr the state will get $81.2 million.

“We’re very excited in regards to the further funding and what it means for the communities and the water utilities in Wisconsin,” Ritchie stated.

The funding additionally consists of $13 million for rising contaminants like PFAS. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a category of 1000’s of artificial chemical substances extensively utilized by trade because the Nineteen Forties. They’ve been utilized in on a regular basis merchandise like nonstick cookware and firefighting foam. The chemical substances don’t break down simply within the surroundings. Analysis reveals excessive publicity to PFAS has been linked to kidney and testicular cancers, fertility points, thyroid illness and decreased response to vaccines over time. A rising variety of communities statewide have detected PFAS in public wells, together with Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Wausau.

Ritchie expects to see extra demand for monetary help via this system this yr. In October 2022, communities submitted their intent to use for greater than $594 million to fund future initiatives for this yr and past.

Within the final two years, Wisconsin had a program for personal lead line substitute that was funded via the switch of $64 million from its Clear Water Mortgage Fund. Ritchie stated that constructed momentum on changing lead traces that he expects will proceed below further funding via the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

The town of Stoughton in Dane County is an instance of 1 group that was capable of advance substitute of all its recognized lead traces by using funding via the DNR program.

In 2019, town’s water exceeded the federal motion stage of 15 elements per billion below which techniques are required to switch lead pipes.

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The town started exploring whether or not to switch 7 p.c of its lead traces every year, in response to Jill Weiss, town’s utilities director.

As a substitute, town launched into a $5.3 million venture that eliminated round 1,000 private and non-private lead traces in 2021 that touched roughly 700 properties. She stated they acquired a $3.5 million mortgage from the DNR to switch 653 non-public lead traces.

She stated it solely took one yr as a substitute of 15 years to switch these traces. The town additionally acquired approval to lift water charges to assist pay for a 20-year mortgage that funded substitute of public lead traces.

Weiss stated the extra funding below the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is a chance for communities to get the lead out.

“The more cash that may be put into this, the higher,” Weiss stated. “It’s positively a well being danger, particularly for ladies which might be pregnant, youngsters below the age of 5.”

Youngsters are extra susceptible to guide poisoning, which might trigger developmental points amongst different well being issues.

There are round 170,000 lead service traces in communities statewide, and the bulk are in Milwaukee. 

The state’s largest metropolis has round 67,000 lead water service traces which might be nonetheless in use. The town changed round 1,000 lead traces final yr, and metropolis officers hope to switch 1,200 this yr. Federal funding might assist speed up the elimination course of. The town intends to use for not less than $37.2 million in secure ingesting water mortgage funds to switch lead traces and water mains.

Wisconsin’s Democratic congressional delegation hailed the infrastructure legislation’s further funding for ingesting water system upgrades, together with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan.

Communities can apply for loans for fiscal yr 2024 via the top of June.