Green Bay Has Officially Replaced All City’s Lead Pipes

Green Bay officials gathered on Emilie Street Tuesday to celebrate the completion of the city’s five-year efforts to remove more than 2,000 lead pipes.

The multi-million dollar work was done at Deb Weaver, who had moved to Green Bay six years ago. The fact that officials had the foresight to invest in replacing the city’s lead pipes shows why it’s a great place to live, she said.

“We have access to urban amenities, but it feels like a small town and in small towns people really care for each other,” she said.

In total, Green Bay Water Utility replaced 1,781 utility-owned and 247 privately-owned lead service lines. Homeowners didn’t pay anything out of pocket, according to the nonprofit utility. Lead pipes are no longer known in Green Bay.

“It’s really a great example of what we can do when we identify a problem, but also allocate the resources needed to really address it,” said Eric Genrich, Mayor of Green Bay, who is on Emilie Street grew up.

Nancy Quirk, general manager of Green Bay Water Utility, said the trip began years ago when tests showed the water in some homes was contaminated with lead.

“Instead of apologizing or kicking the can down the street, our utility company chose to literally dig deeper to get to where we are today,” she said.

Around the time the Flint, Michigan water crisis hit national headlines, Green Bay Water Utility pledged to remove all leading utility lines by the end of 2020.

According to Quirk, the project had three parts: find the lead pipes, replace them, and pay for them.

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The Green Bay Water Utility began immediately replacing utility-owned pipelines while using gauges to determine if homeowners might have lead pipes, she said.

The utility worked with the city’s public works department to replace the water pipes while the crews rehabilitated the streets, which made them cheaper. They worked through rain, heat, sleet and snow, she said.

“I am so happy and proud today of what this utility has achieved,” she said.

Funding the work was a joint effort. Price increases, safe drinking water loans from the State Department of Natural Resources, and funds from the Lambeau Field tax, which was originally introduced to fund renovations at the stadium, all contributed, Quirk said.

In 2018, Senator Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay sponsored the Leading-in-Lead Bill, which enables public utilities to help private property owners pay for lead line replacements. It was forbidden before.

David Ross, deputy administrator at EPA, said he will share Green Bay as a model as other cities approach their leading service lines.

Green Bay, along with Madison, has discontinued all leading service lines. Milwaukee has more than 70,000 leadership lines, but officials have said funding is an obstacle to their replacement.

Lead exposure can cause health problems, especially in children.

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