Susan Bence

Environmental Reporter

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.

Susan is now WUWM's environmental reporter, the station's first. Her work has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Susan worked with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin for 20 years, studied foreign languages at UWM, and loves to travel.

Ways to Connect

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Today is Carrie Lewis’ last day on the job she has held for 20 years.

She arrived, not long after one crisis surfaced, and she’s leaving, as Milwaukee Water Works is addressing another - figuring out how to replace what could be more than 80,000 lead pipes that carry water into city homes.

Lewis came to town in 1995, two years after Milwaukee’s devastating cryptosporidium outbreak. It sickened hundreds of thousands of water drinkers, and dozens, many of whom had compromised immune systems, died.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Freshwater For Life Coalition, or FLAC, delivered a letter to Barrett on Tuesday.

The group is demanding the city take big, immediate steps to address its crisis of lead pipes carrying water into thousands of homes.

The call comes after news erupted late last week during a Water Quality Task Force meeting.  Its members learned Milwaukee did not mandate the use of copper pipes until 1962. For months, city leaders had been repeating the message that only people living in homes built prior to 1951 likely had lead service lines.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Hunger Task Force has been working to ensure people in Milwaukee don’t go hungry. On Monday, the agency staged a press conference with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce a new twist - through a campaign called Well Fed Means Less Lead

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Alderman Jose Perez was all smiles as people of different ages, nationalities and sexual orientations lingered after his official work was done. City leaders had just thrown a news conference to mark Milwaukee’s new municipal identification card.

Perez helped create the program.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

It was not until 1962 that the City of Milwaukee mandated that only copper be used for water service lines. So the number of houses possibly containing lead pipes is now estimated to be as high as 82,000, not the original 70,000.

The news was delivered Friday to members of the city's Water Quality Task Force.

For months, the city has been alerting people living in homes built prior to 1951 that they likely contain lead water pipes - so the residents should install filters on their faucets to protect against lead exposure, particularly among young children.

The City of Milwaukee faces the daunting challenge of replacing the lead pipes that deliver drinking water to 70,000 older homes. The task will stretch over years and comes at a mind-numbing cost.

This morning at City Hall, Milwaukee’s Water Quality Task Force will discuss its next steps.

The Common Council formed the group last September, after Mayor Tom Barrett unexpectedly recommended that families living in homes built before 1951 install water filters, to shield young children and pregnant women from possible lead exposure.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Two very different projects illustrate the overlap of green space and development.

Several hundred residents turned out Tuesday evening for an open house to discuss master planning of Wauwatosa's Life Sciences District. Many people are riveted to a small wooded area they fear could be developed. While today, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett unveiled a 3/5 acre project that will blend storm water management and public space.

FONDY FARMERS MARKET GREEN SPACE

Dave L, flickr

Today the Milwaukee  Common Council unanimously voted to ban a material called coal tar.  The black, shiny liquid is sprayed or painted on surfaces such as driveways, parking lots and playgrounds.The ban also includes other pavement sealant products that contain more than one percent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs.

Coal tar sealants have been shown to contain dangerous levels of the cancer-causing compound.

Runoff from pavement treated with coal tar is also impacting rivers and streams.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Wauwatosa is re-envisioning the city's southwest corner, in its Life Sciences District Plan. The area includes the sprawling medical complex, including Children’s and Froedtert Hospitals, and what, for years, was known as the Milwaukee County Grounds.

City of Milwaukee Health Dept. & Milwaukee Water Works

Mayor Tom Barrett, along with city public health and government officials, unveiled a three-pronged approach to reduce resident's exposure to lead Friday - both through paint and pipes.

Lead paint was commonly applied in homes built before 1978. Lead pipes and soldering were commonly used to deliver water to buildings constructed before 1951.

Barrett said the campaign especially targets parents of young children and pregnant women.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

UPDATE: 2:30 pm  - The resolution passed,  13 to 4.

Original post: Last summer people flocked to the lush green space above Lake Michigan like never before. The crowds were pursuing small, virtual monsters. The creatures "appeared” in the space, on smartphone screens of people who have the Pokémon Go app.

County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman represents the Lake Park neighborhood. And at a recent county parks committee meeting, Wasserman showed videos and photos taken last summer by neighbors, during what they considered a Pokémon Go invasion.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee Riverkeeper describes itself as “a science based advocacy organization working for swimmable, fishable rivers.” Unfortunately, the Milwaukee River Basin, which includes the Kinnickinnic, Menomonee, and Milwaukee Rivers and their tributaries, has some work to do before reaching that swimmable, fishable goal.

For the past decade, Riverkeeper has dispatched dozens of citizen scientists to monitor water quality in nearly 100 spots throughout the basin.

A Wisconsin town is getting a lot of attention these days -- on the issue of drinking water.

 

Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes basin, but it has received permission to take water from Lake Michigan. Officials are still debating the impact of the precedent-setting decision – and a group of mayors is challenging the town’s action.

 

Meanwhile, Waukesha is moving full speed ahead.  


T Ehlinger

The Trump team seems to have followed Wisconsin’s lead. The Walker administration eliminated the words climate change from both the DNR's website and the Public Service Commission's website.

Then shortly after Donald Trump became president, the White House website no longer mentioned climate change.

Scott Manley of Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce has no problem with wiping the term from all government vocabulary.

SIDDHARTHA ROY / FLINTWATERSTUDY.ORG

Milwaukee is grappling with the cost and time needed to replace approximately 70,000 lead service lines scattered around the city.

Lead is a heavy metal neurotoxin that causes severe health problems in those exposed to it, especially children.

William Kort decided to try to contribute to the solution.

Kort is an adjunct instructor with the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and put together a class called Public Water Provision in Milwaukee – Lead and Other Issues.

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