Local governments do their part to get the lead out

LEAD HAS BEEN A recognized public health hazard for many, many years. The focus and concern for much of that time was on lead paint in older homes and apartments and the threat that posed to children who lived there and might ingest or suck on the paint.

While that effort has seen some success and some progress over the years, the hazard still remains in much of the nation’s older housing stock and vigilance and remediation are still needed.

But over the past several years the lead focus for many has shifted to the presence of lead in drinking water, especially when a fullblown environmental and health crisis developed in Flint, Mich., over dangerously unhealthy levels of lead in that city’s drinking water.

That has led to a renewed look at municipal water supplies and the pipes that carry that water to residences, schools, businesses and industries – pipes that are often old lead pipes.

Here in Plymouth, the city reached an agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources in 2012 to accelerate its program to replace lead service lines in the city after the city’s water supply fell outside the Safe Water Drinking Act standards for lead content in tests conducted in 2011.

The accelerated lead pipe replacements, along with other steps taken by Plymouth Utilities, enabled the city to bring lead content back under the SWDA levels and remain there since then.

City and utilities officials acted quickly and effectively to ensure that the city’s drinking water remained safe for all residents and they deserve credit for the success they achieved.

Still, lead water service lines remain on many private properties – what the city replaced was simply the connecting pipes from city water mains to property service lines.

Addressing that second link in the lead pipe chain remains a challenging issue.

That’s where officials in the village of Elkhart

Lake deserve great credit for taking advantage of a federal grant program, administered by the state

DNR, to address just that issue.

Elkhart Lake was one of 38 municipalities across the state to receive the grant to fund replacement of private lead water service lines. The village got $94,000 for their grant.

Under the guidelines approved by the Village Board, residents will be eligible for up to $6,000 to replace their lead service lines, with the property owner paying only the first $250 in cost.

The village has identified the area west of State 67 (Lincoln Street) and north of Rhine Street as the target area for the grant funds and will be contacting property owners in that area to find out who is interested in taking part in the program.

Village Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Jessica Reilly and her staff did a lot of hard work to apply for and receive the grant, which required considerable paperwork to meet federal and state requirements.

Most of the grant recipients were larger villages and cities, up to the size of Sheboygan or Milwaukee, with larger staffs that could put in the time and effort the application process required, not smaller communities like Elkhart Lake.

Reilly and her staff, backed by the Village Board, saw the need and put in the time and effort to get the grant money for their village. They deserve thanks and commendation for ensuring that at least some village residents will be able to enjoy cleaner, safer drinking water in the future at a minimal cost.

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