As with all public utilities, the Fond du Lac Water Utility is governed by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This Act is a Federal law that originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public drinking water of around 160,000 public utilities throughout the nation. It is then up to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure every state adheres to these regulations. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is the local agency that ensures public utilities within the state of Wisconsin then comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
An EPA Science Advisory Board reported that lead levels can elevate for some time after a partial lead service line replacement occurs. The EPA also estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead, and that where present the most significant source of lead in drinking water comes from lead pipes. In 2016 the WDNR issued a notice to all public water systems recommending to “Avoid partial lead service line replacements and proactively engage in a lead service line replacement program”.
In response to that information, and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Fond du Lac, on February 8th, 2017, the Fond du Lac City council passed ordinance No. 3629. This ordinance then required property owners to replace their PLSL whenever it is disturbed as part of a planned or unplanned event.
Prior to 2017 state law prohibited public utilities from using utility dollars on private property. Since 2017 the Fond du Lac Water Utility has funded its PLSL replacement program with grant money through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Safe Drinking Water Loan Program. Unfortunately, just recently this grant money has run out.
Fortunately, in early February of 2018, Wisconsin State Legislature passed the 2017 Wisconsin Act 137. This then became Wisconsin Stat. §196.372. This piece of legislation opened the doors to allow public utilities to utilize ratepayer dollars to help assist property owners in funding their PLSL replacements with approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The Fond du Lac Water Utility has applied for this permission and a final decision is expected by early March of 2020.