lead

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

As Steering & Rules Committee chair Ashanti Hamilton opened Wednesday's special meeting, he described the moment as pivotal to Milwaukee.  He called for thoughtfulness and urgency.

Susan Bence

Update: During Tuesday's press event, Freshwater for Life Action Coalition, or FLAC, spokesperson Robert Miranda called for action.

Susan Bence

Updated 1/12/18, 5:20 p.m.:

The City of Milwaukee health department is under fire -- amid a management shake-up. It became public Friday afternoon that the department failed to properly notify thousands of families, whose children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels. It also became public that health commissioner Bevan Baker has left his post.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update, November 20: The Public Safety and Health Committee approved the resolution without debate at its Monday morning meeting.

Update: After this story aired, the City of Milwaukee Health Department contacted WUWM to share this information about the department's lead education efforts:

MILWAUKEE WATER WORKS

Update:  Since the story aired, the Milwaukee Department of Public Works provided the folowing information:

Milwaukee's final 2017 budget approved by the Common Council adjusted the year's eplacement targets to 300 day cares and 300 residential properties. DPW reports 355 replacements have been completed, 135 more are scheduled.  The department it will replace 600 lines by year's end.    

Original Post: Mayor Tom Barrett called this year's budget the starting point for removing lead pipes throughout the city.  

No one knows more about the risks and challenges of dealing with lead in drinking water than Marc Edwards. The Virginia Tech civil engineering professor not only helped hold a spotlight up to Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, but years earlier he investigated a public health disaster in Washington D.C. that ended with Congressional hearings in 2010.

Edwards says the challenges around lead in water begin with reliable lead testing because lead is often occurs in particulate form.

Dmitry Naumov, fotolia

One year ago, Mayor Tom Barrett surprised Milwaukeeans when he advised residents living in houses built before 1951 to install water filters. That's the era when the pipes that carry water from mains to households were made of lead.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Alderman Tony Zielinski is concerned residents don’t fully understand both the risks and how they can protect themselves from lead exposure. His says his proposal would direct the Milwaukee Health Department to communicate more effectively – starting with the importance of water filters. Zielinski introduced the resolution at the Public Health and Safety Committee meeting Thursday.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Mechanical engineering researcher Junhong Chen believes his wafer-thin sensor will help detect even trace amounts of lead in water.

PhD candidate Guihau Zhou is one of six students who have dedicated three years helping Chen develop the technology in his lab at the Global Water Center in the Walker's Point neighborhood.

Zhou demonstrates by extracting a drop of water from a vial and releasing it onto a wafer-thin sensor. I wager it would take 10 sensors to fill the surface of a DIME.

MMSD

Out of sight and out of mind is the typical dynamic when it comes to the pipes that bring us drinking water, or the system that takes storm and waste water out of our homes and neighborhoods.  But things change when there’s a crisis.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Freshman Tya Miller was among the North Division students who gathered outside at the end of the school day Wednesday, holding signs and distributing bottled water.

“My concern is that we don’t have clean water at all. All of our water bubblers are full of lead and they expect us to drink it,” Miller says.

Miller says bottled water is being provided, “But we have pay a dollar for it and I feel like that isn’t fair,” she adds, “We’re students here and we deserve free water.”

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update: The Water Quality Task Force reviewed it list of recommendations for the last time Friday morning. Task force member Ben Gramling of Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers suggested an addition, “That calls for the City to do all within its power to accelerate the replacement and/or rehabilitation of lead service lines within its jurisdiction.”  The task force agreed and shifted the resolution to the top of its list.

Pat Rabinson

Milwaukee Water Commons was created four years ago to educate the community about water - its rivers, streams and Lake Michigan - to cultivate informed stewards.

“I came from a more traditional environmental effort, which was the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition – working to make the river more beautiful, more accessible. There was already a ton of passion around that issue, but it was by and large a middle class and white group of people,” founder Ann Brummitt says.

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.

Pages