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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. While we’re happy to report that fewer than 3 percent of our customers are currently affected by lead service lines, we won’t be satisfied until the lead is completely out of our system. 

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.

How does lead get into the water?

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

Read more in these Lead in Drinking Water informational flyers:What is the utility doing to eliminate this issue?
  1. Unidirectional Flushing Program (UDF)
    In 2015, Green Bay Water Utility completed UDF of all 440 miles of water main to remove loose particles in the water. We conducted UDF again from April to October 2017 for about half the city and are performing UDF on the other half of the city now through October 2018. 
  2. 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 May 2018, there are fewer than 865 lead service lines in Green Bay, out of a total of more than 35,700 service lines in the city.  
  3. 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.  
Other sources of lead
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 10 to 20 percent of lead exposure comes from drinking water. The other 80 to 90 percent comes from other sources in and around the home.