Proposed lead pipe program could help city in replacement

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BELOIT - Parts of Beloit's water system still rely on lead pipe fixtures, but city water resource staff say there's no imminent public health threat facing residents, as sections are replaced on a rolling basis.

With Gov. Tony Evers recommending a $40 million plan to replace lead water piping across the state in his budget proposal, officials say they would monitor developments to see if any program is established.

According to Water Resources Director William Frisbee, Beloit's public water system has around 17 percent of lateral connections to the city's water mains that are lead, while testing levels are in Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources compliant safety ranges.

Frisbee said the city would certainly look into the program if approved in the state budget, but noted most state programs that are proposed would include fixes to private home connections with lead piping.

Frisbee said the city's water, which comes from an aquifer rich in limestone and sand deposits, has a natural mineral composition, calcium carbonate, that coats the system's pipes and provides an added layer of protection.

"We're fortunate that we get that natural coating," Frisbee said.

Frisbee said there is no record of how many private water connections, offshoots to homes from the system, have lead piping. He noted only two replacements of lateral connections on residential properties in nearly 10 years contained lead piping. Wisconsin Power and Light transferred the water system to Beloit in 2003.

As the city completes infrastructure projects such as road resurfacing, water resources staff work to replace aging sections of water mains and add plastic laterals to replace lead fixtures.

Frisbee said most of the lead service laterals are closer to the downtown area on both sides of the river, the city's oldest areas, with the oldest water main from 1903 and the oldest water service line still in operation from 1907.

As failures to the system crop up, replacements are made, Frisbee said.

"It's just best practice to make sure that we are getting those out of the system," he added.

In 2018, the water main on Shore Drive from Maple to Dawson was completed along with expansions of water infrastructure in the Gateway Business Park to make way for future development.

This year, Frisbee said the water resources division would continue with the water meter and transmitter replacement program and determine which roads will be resurfaced to survey and identify connections that could be replaced.

Due to the extreme cold from the polar vortex, the city has already replaced 28 water main breaks, after replacing about 30 annually in past years, Frisbee said.

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