Operation: Get the Lead Out

Nationwide, water infrastructure is aging and needs to be replaced. Accordingly, Green Bay Water Utility continues to replace lead service lines, which run from the water main in the street to individual homes, as quickly as possible.

Pie -chart

While we’re happy to report that less than 5% of our customers are currently affected by lead service lines, we won’t be satisfied until the lead is completely out of our system.

You can find out if your home is part of the 5% by viewing a map of Green Bay’s remaining lead water service lines.

There are some easy tips to follow to minimize lead in your water.

How was the lead issue determined?

In 2011, Green Bay Water Utility found lead levels in some homes to be above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb), or 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water (mg/L). This was the first time Green Bay Water Utility exceeded the action level for lead since the EPA established testing requirements in 1992.

After conducting a corrosion study, Green Bay Water Utility discovered that the high lead levels were due to particulate matter, and worked with the DNR to create an action plan to reduce lead levels that continues to be implemented.

As of spring 2016, Green Bay Water Utility is back in compliance with the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, with current lead testing below 15 ppb. 

How does lead get into the water?

Problem -areas

Lead is NOT found in Green Bay’s source water, Lake Michigan, nor is lead in Green Bay Water Utility’s treated drinking water. The water delivered to your service lines is free of contaminants and meets or exceeds all federal guidelines for safety.

Lead can enter the water as a result of the wearing away of materials containing lead in service lines or internal plumbing. Lead is most likely found in homes built prior to 1944, the last year Green Bay installed lead service lines. Plumbing solder containing lead was banned in Wisconsin in 1984. When water stands for several hours in fixtures or pipes that contain lead, the lead may leach into the water. The amount of lead will vary depending on how much and how often water is used in your home.

Many other sources contribute to lead in our lives, including lead-based paints and lead-contaminated dust or soil, which are a greater hazard, especially to children. The EPA estimates that only 10 to 20 percent of a person’s potential exposure to lead may come from drinking water.

Why is it important to remove lead?

Lead may pose a significant health risk if too much enters your body. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Lead builds up over the years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys, and may cause a slight increase in blood pressure.

What is the utility doing to eliminate this issue?

The Green Bay Water Utility has developed a four-fold approach to address the issue of lead in our water system, including:

  1. Water Studies
    Working with laboratories and the EPA, Green Bay Water Utility determined the source of the issue and developed a response that provides the most effective solutions.
  2. Unidirectional Flushing Program
    In 2015, Green Bay Water Utility completed Unidirectional Flushing of all 440 miles of water main to remove loose particles in the water.
  3. Removal of Lead Services
    For 20 years, the Green Bay Water Utility has been replacing lead service lines where possible and as budget allows. As of April 2016, there are 1,702 lead service lines in Green Bay, out of a total of more than 35,000 service lines in the city. The Green Bay Water Utility plans to replace at least 150 lead service lines in 2016.
  4. Community Education
    Green Bay Water Utility teamed up with Brown County Public Health to further educate the community on the threat of lead and help create a safe, lead-free environment for healthy kids and families. Download “Let’s Get the Lead Out! It’s a Team Effort!” for more information.