Very little lead, galvanized materials found in downtown systems.

Just a few blocks away from the brunt of the work on the Downtown Streetscape Project in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, sits a large pile of old, rusted pipes.

Those pipes served the city through McCarthyism and the Cold War, four Green Bay Packers Super Bowl victories — including people burning Bears jerseys in the middle of town during the 2010 playoff run — and perhaps most notably, through the shift away from main street as the social and economic hub of small town America.

The old pipes were dug up to help make way for new infrastructure. The streetscape project involves separating combined sewers and installing new storm, water and wastewater lines throughout much of the Northern Wisconsin community’s downtown area.

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“That piping was largely what was in conflict and had to physically be removed from the ground so it wouldn’t be a problem with other pipes,” says Tim Kingman, Public Works director for the city. “The pipes that weren’t in the way, they get abandoned in different fashions. The ends might be mudded up or sealed off or they fill it with concrete.”

One thing the crews looked for as they ripped up the old pipe were any signs of lead, and to Kingman’s pleasure, there wasn’t a lot of it found.

“One thing we’re always looking for is lead components in the water system,” Kingman says. “You want to get rid of the lead or galvanized surfaces. It’s been a big focus of communities, largely in part because of Flint, Michigan.”

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Kingman says there were some lead fittings, but not a wealth of it.

“The only other thing we’ve taken from that pile is the vintage that some of them were,” Kingman says. “What you have there is 50- to 75-year-old cast iron materials. There’s a healthy amount of it in that pile and it’s changed over the course of the project.”

The new stormwater system is made of concrete pipe, while PVC is being used for sanitary lines and ductile iron for water lines.

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The contractor is bringing the old pipe to a salvage yard every few weeks.

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