Wisconsin is embarking on an ambitious journey to eliminate lead exposure from drinking water through the innovative Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerator Program. This initiative, backed by the Biden administration, offers a beacon of hope for safer water infrastructure, emphasizing the state’s proactive stance against lead’s harmful effects. With lead recognized for its detrimental health impacts, particularly on young children, the urgency to replace lead laterals—pipes connecting homes to the main water supply—is undeniable. Historically made of lead for its malleability and durability, these pipes now pose a significant public health risk, prompting nationwide efforts for their removal since their ban in 1986.

The Accelerator Program, a collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor, will benefit 40 communities across the U.S., including 10 in Wisconsin. It aims to expedite the replacement process by providing specialized technical assistance, enhancing communities’ abilities to secure federal funding for these critical projects. Through targeted support, Wisconsin communities will gain insights into the grant application process, develop comprehensive replacement strategies, and engage in effective public education and outreach.

Wisconsin’s selection for this program reflects its significant experience and ongoing need to replace an estimated 200,000 lead laterals. Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha alone account for a considerable portion of this figure, highlighting the state’s concentrated efforts in southeastern regions. While the program does not offer direct funding, it significantly enhances communities’ capabilities to navigate federal grant applications, preparing them to meet various legal and administrative requirements efficiently.

In recent times, Wisconsin’s commitment to improving water quality and infrastructure has been bolstered by substantial federal investments, including approximately $79 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding, coupled with an additional $107 million for water quality initiatives, underscores the national and state-level commitment to eradicating lead exposure.

The Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerator Program stands as a pivotal opportunity for Wisconsin to accelerate its progress towards a future free from lead contamination. By leveraging federal resources and expertise, the state is well-positioned to enhance the health and safety of its communities, moving swiftly towards the ultimate goal of removing all lead laterals.