As cities scramble to replace lead lines, Eagle River's just about doneSubmitted: 02/08/2019
As cities scramble to replace lead lines, Eagle River's just about done
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

EAGLE RIVER - Nearly 80,000 homes and businesses in Milwaukee get their water through lead service lines.

Ingesting lead can lead to brain damage, especially in children.

But in the last few years, one Northwoods city has eliminated nearly all of its lead lines at no cost to property owners.

"To have any lead going into people's homes, where they're bathing in it, where they're drinking it, is not a good thing," said Eagle River Mayor Jeff Hyslop.

Hyslop says, a few years ago, more than 60 homes in the city still relied on lead lines. Leaders wanted to change that.

Utility Manager Mike Sanborn oversaw a project using grant money to pay for lead line replacement on private property. Usually, it's up to the homeowner to pay for their own work.

"We wanted just to get it done, and we didn't want it to be an issue for the homeowners where they had to think about it," Hyslop said.

The city will replace a final line this spring, contributing to Gov. Tony Evers' proclamation of 2019 as the year of clean drinking water in Wisconsin.

It's possible the city will discover a few more lead lines it doesn't know about.

"If any more are identified, we'll work on getting those changed out also," Sanborn said.

A city as close as Wausau still has more than 5,000 lead service lines. But in Eagle River, it's problem solved.

"Their whole water service is safer. Their drinking water is safer. It was kind of a no-brainer for everybody involved," Hyslop said.

Many cities used grant money to help homeowners pay for some of lead line replacement. As far as Eagle River can tell, it's the only city to fully fund private water line replacement.

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