lead

Susan Bence

UPDATE: The Freshwater for Life Action Coalition (FLAC) said during a press conference Friday it found no surprises in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services report. FLAC spokesperson Robert Miranda added,  "Nothing new came out of ciy hall either....We've know that these families have not been treated, have not been provided the services that the state paid for, but yet we have not received any word from city hall or the health department stating what they have tried to do to find these families and help these families."

Susan Bence

Some Milwaukeeans are raising new concerns about the potential health risks associated with lead. Critics point to a cluster of infant deaths in the 15th Aldermanic District and think contaminated water might be to blame.

Curt Czarnecki, P.E., Kenosha Water Utility

The Kenosha Common Council recently passed an ordinance that requires homeowners to replace their lead laterals when the city initiates a project. Because this can be expensive, Kenosha aims to set up a grant and loan system to help homeowners.

Water utility manager Ed St. Peter has been working on the idea for a while, saying he wants to expeditiously replace every inch of the city’s 8,800 lead lines that connect homes to water mains.

Susan Bence

Just like Milwaukee, thousands of lead service lines deliver water from the main into Wauwatosa households. Wauwatosa's public works director David Simpson estimates nearly 10,000 of its 15,000 customers have lead pipes feeding water into their homes.

Simpson says Wauwatosa recently changed its policy surrounding pipes that break. “If we have a break on the city-owned lateral, we’ll go in and replace the entire city-owned side.” Before that, he says, city crews simply repaired the break.

Curt Czarnecki

It’s hard to get away from discussions about lead in Milwaukee this days. Meet two people who understand the issues but have lingering concerns.

Carol Hayes – Riverwest Resident

Like many people, Carol Hayes’ awareness of the risks associated with lead in water date back the crisis in Flint, Michigan.

She was quite sure her duplex, built in 1924, had lead service lines, but had trouble sorting out how best to filter her water and that of her upstairs tenants.

Susan Bence

Longtime Milwaukee Health Department employee Lisa Lien, who coordinated the city’s struggling childhood lead program, has been suspended.

Just hours before that news broke Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett held a press event on the topic of lead but didn't say a word about Lien.

She worked in various capacities at the health department for 26 years; nine years ago assuming leadership of its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The group Freshwater For Life Action Coalition formed out of concern about Milwaukee’s lead in water problem. FLAC spokesperson Robert Miranda requested records from January 2015 through 2017 of meetings Mayor Barrett held with the Milwaukee Health Department. He wanted to determine how frequently the mayor was updated on the health department’s progress in informing the public.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee has a lead problem. Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers isn't waiting for city leaders to come up with a comprehensive plan, instead it is holding workshops to inform families how to better protect themselves.

Their second Lead-Safe Home Workshop will take place this Wednesday, March 21 from 6 to 8 pm at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, just off 27th Street on Center.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou served as advisor to Michigan's Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee and before that lent her expertise to the  Washington, D.C. lead in water crisis.

hemvala40 / Fotolia

There’s a heightened concern around the dangers lead poses to health in Milwaukee, especially among young children. Early this year, Milwaukee residents learned that the Milwaukee Health Department failed to properly notify thousands of families whose children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels.

READ: Milwaukee Health Dept. 'Failed to Ensure Adequate Notification' of Elevated Lead Levels in Kids

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Mayor Tom Barrett gave Dr. Patricia McManus, head of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, the official green light Thursday, but the process was far from seamless.

Six weeks ago former commissioner Bevan Baker stepped down after evidence surfaced that the health department had botched protocols surrounding lead testing in children.

Mayor Barrett then announced his choice for interim commissioner - Paul Nannis.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The topic of lead contamination continues to consume Milwaukee leaders. The Milwaukee Health Department is under scrutiny for mismanagement of its lead paint abatement program. And, at the same time, community pressure for a comprehensive plan seems to be mounting.

Wednesday morning at a meeting of the Public Works Committee, Alderman Tony Zielinski pushed for a companion strategy. “Key components of the legislation include inserts going out with the water bill quarterly as opposed to semiannually and that would provide educational material about lead," he said.

s / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Common Council voted nearly unanimously Tuesday to name Dr. Patricia McManus interim health commissioner.

Just one day earlier, Mayor Tom Barrett withdrew his choice for interim health department head, Paul Nannis.

The writing was on the wall. Recently the Public Safety and Health Committee grilled and rejected Nannis.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton decided to act – drawing from a seldom used measure called emergency power – to nominate Dr. Patricia MaManus for the job.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update, 5:54 pm Thursday:

According to a press release issued by Ald. Bob Baumann, Mayor Barrett today lifted the policy that required health department staff get permission before communicating directly with elected officials.  The policy was discussed at Wednesday's Steering & Rules Committee where members learned for the first time of the policy's existence.

Original Story:

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

As the Milwaukee Common Council continues to sort through what's amiss with the health department, WUWM talks with parents concerned about lead contamination in their children.

Wahkunna Smith was confused when she received a letter from the City of Milwaukee Health Department that read: “Dear Parent or Guardian, One or more of your children had a blood lead test result within the last few years…"

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