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Madison Water Utility replaces 8,000 lead service lines

Madison, WI, USA
WaterNow Alliance
In Collaboration With
Madison Water Utility

Cost

Initial:
15.5 Million USD

Project Status

Operational since 2000

Keywords

Drinking water
Lead
Lead and Copper Rule
Service Line Replacement
Get the Lead Out

Challenges Addressed

Citizen Engagement
Water Quality

Motivation

Resilient city
Sustainable city

Funding / Financing

Innovative Finance

Project Type

Project

At a Glance

Madison’s Lead Service Replacement Line program was the first of its kind in the country. It was aimed at replacing all lead service lines in the city, most of which were on private property, and included a reimbursement mechanism to help customers pay for the cost of private replacements.

Problem Addressed

In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The new federal regulation required water providers to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If, based on that sampling, lead concentrations exceeded an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), the LCR then required utilities to undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion. The following year, in 1992, Madison Water Utility conducted its first round of testing in accordance with the LCR. The results of these samples revealed elevated levels of lead above the action level.

Madison Water Utility’s first step was to evaluate potential ways to achieve the required reductions under the LCR. Working with its consultant, the utility soon learned through a series of tests and studies that adding the chemicals usually used to address elevated levels of lead in drinking water would not satisfactorily resolve the issue, as adding the chemical orthophosphate would compound existing phosphorous pollution in the streams to which Madison discharges its wastewater. Taking a truly One Water approach, Madison viewed the need to reduce lead levels in its drinking water holistically from source to tap to receiving water. Practically, this meant identifying and replacing all lead service lines — no simple task.

Madison Water Utility used/is using a comprehensive Lead Line Replacement Program to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

To implement the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, Madison Water Utility first addressed three initial challenges:

(1) The EPA had to approve the utility’s proposal to bypass the treatment techniques specified in the LCR, as the regulation did not otherwise allow the city to use lead line replacement as a compliance mechanism. Based on the research and data collected, the EPA did approve Madison’s request to meet the LCR through the Lead Service Line Replacement Program.

(2) Madison Water Utility needed to work with the community to address concerns about the need for and cost of the lead line replacement program. Through extensive public education and outreach efforts, the utility successfully gained the community’s support.

(3) Madison Water Utility needed to identify a creative funding source for certain portions of the Lead Service Line Replacement Program. To finance lead line replacement on private property, the utility decided to rent space on its water towers for cellular antennas.

Lead Service Line Replacement Program:

Madison’s Lead Service Replacement Line program was the first of its kind in the country. It was aimed at replacing all lead service lines in the city, most of which were on private property. The program was comprised of two elements:

(1) a regulatory mandate that all lead service lines be replaced; and

(2) a reimbursement mechanism to help customers pay for the cost of private replacements.

The regulatory mandate was established in an ordinance adopted by Madison’s Common Council in 2000. The ordinance required that all lead service lines, including those both publicly and privately owned, were to be replaced over the next decade. For customers that were subject to this mandate, the ordinance also provided that Madison Water Utility would reimburse half of the customer’s cost of replacement up to $1,000 (later increased to $1,500). Customers refusing to comply would be subject to fines of $50-$1,000 per day.

To implement these program elements, Madison Water Utility conducted extensive field outreach and education, including meetings and education materials for homeowners on how to locate and test their service lines. The utility also sent thousands of customer surveys to identify lead service lines, as records of the piping material for property owners’ laterals were not available.

Outcomes

  1. Public Health Benefits: By implementing the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, Madison has reduced lead in its drinking water pursuant to the LCR.
  2. Social Benefits: In total, the community has replaced 8,000 lead service lines, 5,600 of which were on private property.
  3. Economic Benefits: As of 2018, the Lead Service Line Replacement Program has already saved Madison approximately $2.5 million in costs by avoiding the need for ongoing treatment.

Something Unique

The was a first-in-the-nation program!

Who Should Consider?

Communities facing lead in drinking water challenges.