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Environment
WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Milwaukee Homes Built Between 1952-1962 May Also Have Lead Water Pipes

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Susan Bence
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Milwaukee Public Radio
The Water Quality Task Force met today at City Hall.

It was not until 1962 that the City of Milwaukee mandated that only copper be used for water service lines. So the number of houses possibly containing lead pipes is now estimated to be as high as 82,000, not the original 70,000.

The news was delivered Friday to members of the city's Water Quality Task Force.

For months, the city has been alerting people living in homes built prior to 1951 that they likely contain lead water pipes - so the residents should install filters on their faucets to protect against lead exposure, particularly among young children.

Before 1951, the city and builders routinely used lead pipes. After that time, the city started using copper on its side of the water lateral, but task force chair Alderman Jim Bohl says there is no guarantee that plumbers who installed lines on hew homes between 1952 and 1962 used copper.

Milwaukee Water Works superintendent Carrie Lewis says the only way to know for certain is to dig up the pipe and look at it.

The utility is only required to keep inventory of the city side of the service line.

“What is on the private side is not recorded anywhere. .....(It) may be recorded, I am told by plumbing inspectors, as a little note on the permit when the inspector went to inspect the installation in the house, but that isn’t catalogued...and isn't searchable except on those individual pieces of paper,” Lewis says.

Water Quality Task Force members appeared stunned by the news.

“This is one of the few task forces I’ve been on that I get more confused with each meeting,” task force member Dr Patricia McManus said.

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