Lead is a naturally occurring metal that has been a part of human society for thousands of years. In the water industry, concerns about lead pipes have evolved over decades. Today, scientists and society are more aware than in the past of the dangers posed by the use of lead in paint, gasoline, and drinking water infrastructure.
Because water services are underground and were installed many years ago without good installation documentation, there were not good records to predict who had a lead service and who did not. Marshfield Utilities has been developing a comprehensive inventory of known and suspected lead service lines using a combination of property records, PSC Reports, home inspections, and using vacuum excavation methods to verify findings.
Marshfield Utilities has monitored lead levels in customers’ homes since the passing of the SDWA amendment adding lead to the monitoring list in 1991. The results of this and other regular, routine testing have been included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports you can find on our website at
In 2020, water quality sample results from homes in the Marshfield Utilities system with known lead service lines and plumbing exceeded the level the EPA requires for taking action. The action level is an indicator that additional steps may need to be taken to “optimize corrosion control treatment.” That means a utility may need to adjust its water treatment to minimize the risk of lead getting into drinking water from lead pipes and plumbing. Marshfield Utilities informed all customers on their bills, and began the largest customer communication and education program in the utility’s history, sharing information about the sources of lead in drinking water including bill inserts to all customers, direct letters to the customers who were a part of the testing, direct letters to schools, day cares, and other health agencies.
We have evolved our approach to lead over the years, including replacing lead service lines when we come across them during our own construction projects, main breaks, and services leaks and offering a lead service line reimbursement program through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Safe Drinking Water Loan Program with assistance from a local bank to help homeowners cover the cost of lead service replacement.
Keep in mind that having a lead service line does not necessarily mean you have elevated levels of lead in your drinking water. Over the years, Marshfield Utilities has lowered the pH of the water, raised the disinfection concentration level, and installed a strict unidirectional flushing program to lower the corrosivity of the water and limit the amount of lead in the drinking water.
For more information on other sources of lead and how to read and interpret your water quality test results, click on this link