City of Madison is a National Leader on Replacing Lead Pipes

Old rotten pipework with holes, in need of repair

The Madison Water Utility was the first major utility in the nation to demonstrate that a full replacement of both the public and the private portions of lead service lines was possible.

But it was neither easy nor cheap. “It was quite a contentious thing,” Tom Heikkinen, the water utility’s current general manager, said at a regulatory meeting in May 2015. “I’m glad I wasn’t here at the time.”

The effort to replace all of Madison’s lead pipes took more than a decade beginning in 2001, and cost roughly $19.4 million. About 20 percent of the cost was borne by homeowners. The city covered half the cost of replacement, up to $1,000, for the 5,600 property owners who participated.