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Lead pipes

Racine has thousands of lead water service lines, like the one shown here. A state forgivable loan of $1.38 million in will help at least 460 residents cover the cost of replacing pipes on their property.

RACINE — Gov. Scott Walker announced Wednesday that the City of Racine has been awarded $1.38 million in state funding to help replace an estimated 460 lead water service lines.

The funding — provided as a “forgivable loan” that does not need to be repaid — will help defray part of the cost for property owners to replace the pipes, which have the potential to transfer harmful lead into drinking water. The city will be able to pay up to $3,000 directly to a contractor for the pipe replacement on behalf of a property owner, the governor’s office said.

“We need to be sure our kids and families are drinking clean water and that means replacing lead pipes,” Walker stated. “For the City of Racine, we are helping replace at least 460 lead service lines that will help provide clean, lead-free water to businesses and homes. This is critical to ensure we have a healthy community.”

In the last 20 years, whenever the city replaced a street, it would replace lead pipes within the public right of way with copper pipes, but the city was unable to do work on private property, said Keith Haas, Racine Water Utility general manager.

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Funds are being disbursed through a lottery system. When someone is chosen to receive the funds, they are given a list of eligible plumbers to perform the pipe replacements. Some people have already been notified they are getting the funding, but Haas said plumbers have not been receiving calls, so he urged lottery winners to begin the process.

Municipalities switched from lead to copper pipes in the 1940s, meaning many areas in Racine County are likely to have lead pipes either in the streets or on private property, Haas said. The city has replaced about 1,000 lines over the past 20 years, but Haas estimated there are still at least 10,000 lead service lines remaining in Racine. Still, he said, the 460 lines the state loan could potentially replace is significant.

“It’s big for us and the residents, because it’s really going to help residential property owners,” Haas said.

For more information, interested property owners can go to the water utility’s website: cityofracine.org/Water/ServiceLateralRebateProgram/.

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