FLAC Challenges Milwaukee City Attorney’s Opinion That City Doesn’t Own Toxic Lead Laterals Connected To Homes

Milwaukee City Attorney under fire for suggesting that home owners do own part of the toxic lead laterals connected to the City water main and could be responsible for paying up to $1,600 when replacing when needed, if the Milwaukee Common Council decides they should bear part of the cost.

By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.

December 11, 2016

Milwaukee, WI – The Milwaukee Common Council will take the issue up and discuss who is responsible for replacing at least 70,000 toxic lead laterals connected to homes from the City’s water main. The public won’t be allowed to address the Council members during the hearing. The Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office sent an opinion to the Milwaukee Common Council suggesting that the half portion of a toxic lead lateral on private property is owned by the home owner. The home owner could be mandated by the Council to pay at least $1,600 to replace them when in need, whether the laterals break or an emergency to remove them arise.
Robert Miranda, from the Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) argued, that the opinion of the City Attorney is wrong and that the City should pay the full replacement cost of the lead laterals, just like Philadelphia is doing today.
FLAC has been advocating for the City to replace all of the toxic lead laterals as soon as possible instead of waiting until the laterals need replacing.
Miranda says, that “on December 13, 2016 the Milwaukee Common Council will be voting on a proposal to have homeowners pay as much as $1,600, to be paid via your property tax up to ten years, to remove lead laterals in the event of leaks, brake down or other emergency. The City Attorney’s opinion on this matter is that these lead laterals are the property of homeowners.”
In the Milwaukee Water Department Rules, Regulations and Penalties dating 1872, the City mandated for lead laterals to be connected from the City’s water main and extended to the inside of buildings and the practice lasted until 1951, making the City the owners of the lead laterals, according to Miranda.
FLAC has started a campaign for property owners to contact the Milwaukee Common Council requesting to suspend their decision to have owners pay for partial removal of lead laterals and is also pushing for the City to fund the full replacement of laterals.
Miranda and FLAC members want the Milwaukee Common Council to suspend their decision to have property owners pay for part of the removal of lead laterals until it is determined who actually owns the laterals.
Last month during a Water Task Force Committee hearing, FLAC requested that property owners of homes rented out to local residents should also make information available that the home has a lead lateral connected to the City’s water main, according to Miranda. Today, homes with lead paint are identified and information made available to residents.
Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski from the 14th Aldermanic District released the following statement on his Facebook (FB) account to district residents, “In the 2017 budget, the City adopted a policy under which it will require all laterals that break to be replaced.  In addition, if the City replaces your water main as part of a road construction project, your lead lateral will have to be replaced as well.
“I knew that the cost of replacing these laterals can be high – often as high as $5,000.  That’s why I supported the proposal to have the City ensure that home owners would pay no more than $1,600 to replace their laterals.  Yes, you heard that right. Instead of paying $5,000 you pay $1,600. Moreover, you can take up to 10 years to pay the $1,600 at a very low rate of interest.
“So to summarize, you will be paying much less to have the lateral replaced and you will be significantly lowering the amount of lead in your water.”
The 14th Aldermanic District has at least 9,452 homes including buildings with lead laterals, according to the City of Milwaukee Water Works.The 14th Aldermanic District has 9,452 homes including buildings with lead lateral connections to the City’s water main, according to the City of Milwaukee Water Works.
Rob Petrie on FB raised the following questions in response to Ald. Zielinski’s statement, “Do the terms of a payment plan stay with the house, thus making them a financial disclosure made to potential buyers? Or do they follow the person signing for the payment plan even after a sale of the property?”

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