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Evers declares 'Year of Clean Drinking Water'; local cities look to replace lead service linesSubmitted: 01/30/2019
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Evers declares 'Year of Clean Drinking Water'; local cities look to replace lead service lines
WAUSAU - Congress banned the installation of lead water pipes more than 30 years ago.

Even so, at least 117 communities in Wisconsin still have lead water lines, and some of them are here in our part of the state.

Research shows drinking water with lead can lead to brain, kidney, and nervous system damage. Children are especially vulnerable.

In last week's State of the State address, Gov. Tony Evers declared this year the Year of Clean Drinking Water in Wisconsin.


"In the coming weeks, I'll be signing an executive order to designate a person at the Department of Health Services to take charge in addressing Wisconsin's lead crisis," he said. "We have to get this done."

At least 176,000 homes in Wisconsin get their water through lead lines, including thousands in our area.

Wausau has at least 5,000.

"When we replace our side for a leak or for any reason, we offer the grant funding to residents then. We try to coordinate the grant funding with our street reconstruction projects," said Wausau Water Operations Superintendent Scott Boers.

The city gives out the federal grant money, up to $3,000 at a time, for many homeowners to replace lead pipes. It has roughly $370,000 still available.

Rhinelander, Antigo, Eagle River, Park Falls, Marshfield, Mosinee, Schofield, and Wisconsin Rapids are among cities that also got federal money to address lead service lines. Each community designs its own programs for replacement.

Fixing the crisis will involve lots of money. It might also include some convincing of an older generation.

"A lot of older people that are in homes that have been there a long time, their lines work. They have been drinking lead-line water for 40 years and don't seem to be concerned with it," Boers said.

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An earlier version of this report conflated the two criminal complaints filed against contractor Gerald Stodola.

The first complaint filed February 14, concerns Stodola and a homeowner who alleges Stodola failed to inform the homeowner of a delay in construction. The first complaint also alleges theft by contractor.

The second complaint also filed February 14, concerns Stodola and the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce, whose leaders also allege theft by contractor. They believe Stodola used money meant for a new chamber building for other purposes.

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