New partnership created to eliminate over 8,000 lead service lines in Wausau

The city’s goal is to tackle 500 pipes within the first year
Published: Oct. 12, 2023 at 10:58 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg has announced a pioneering initiative that will revolutionize the effort to eliminate lead service lines nationwide.

“This is really the goal. To lift up people and make sure the health of our communities improve, along with the economy,” said Mayor Rosenberg.

Building on her participation in the Vice President’s Lead Pipe Summit earlier this year, Mayor Rosenberg is leading the charge to replace an estimated 8,000 LSLs in Wausau with an innovative Community-Based Public-Private Partnership (CBP3) approach, originally developed by the EPA over 10 years ago.

It’s estimated that the project will cost around $80 million. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will serve as the cornerstone of this transformative endeavor. Unlike conventional LSL replacement programs, Wausau’s approach involves a partnership between the public and private sectors to deliver infrastructure while prioritizing community-based benefits. This approach aims to generate superior results in terms of speed, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and equity.

Mayor Rosenberg stated, “I am thrilled to announce that the City of Wausau is taking the lead in addressing the national crisis of lead service lines. By partnering with national and local experts, we are launching the country’s first-ever CBP3 dedicated to LSL replacement. We are committed to bringing together the necessary resources for a monumental effort to safeguard our drinking water on an accelerated timeline.”

The city’s goal is to tackle 500 pipes within the first year. To lead this first-ever CBP3 to remove LSLs, the City of Wausau selected Community Infrastructure Partners. “In launching this groundbreaking CBP3 for LSL replacement, the City of Wausau, under the visionary leadership of Mayor Katie Rosenberg, is setting a profound example for our nation,” said Shawn Kerachsky, President and CEO of CIP.

By taking this CBP3 approach, reaching out to and focusing on the community plays a central role. They hope to start working on the pipes after winter is done.

“We want to be able to replace as many lines as quickly as possible, and can’t do that if we don’t have consent,” said Kerachsky.

As far as which pipes get replaced, they say they’re going to prioritize the areas in the community that need it the most. The city of Wausau has a list of areas where the lead pipes are located.

The CBP3 team is a formidable alliance consisting of other renowned organizations, Environmental Policy Innovation Center, Water Finance Exchange, LiUNA, 120Water, and Blue Conduit, and complemented by local small businesses such as H2N, Daar, and the Medical College of Wisconsin. This collaboration will expand as the program scales up, ensuring comprehensive expertise and support.

In addition to replacing LSLs, the City of Wausau is implementing key elements into its program:

  • Community Outreach: A personalized engagement strategy led by H2N will ensure tailored outreach to diverse community members, including Hmong and Hispanic groups.
  • Serving as a Regional Hub: Wausau’s CBP3 delivery model will provide expertise and resources to Central Wisconsin, supporting neighboring communities, including tribal, agricultural, and small disadvantaged communities.
  • Workforce Development: Collaboration with LIUNA’s national training program will address contractor capacity issues, ensuring timely replacement of LSLs while supporting the local population’s economic growth.
  • Local Business Development: The CBP3 model will promote local economic development, benefiting businesses and residents in the greater Wausau and Marathon County region.
  • Public Health: The Medical College of Wisconsin is a key partner, focusing on integrating community health-focused solutions into Wausau’s LSL replacement program to ensure safe drinking water for all.

Mayor Rosenberg concluded by saying, “Our innovative delivery model through a CBP3 will set a new standard for addressing the LSL crisis. I invite everyone to rally behind our city as we embark on this groundbreaking journey.”