VP Harris meets with Milwaukee mom harmed by lead, and workers trying to get it out of drinking water
A mother whose child has been affected by lead poisoning, and some workers trying to spare others from exposure to lead were key parts of Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Milwaukee Monday.
Harris promoted billions of dollars of recently approved spending in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to replace water pipes contaminated with lead. As a result, Wisconsin could see $48 million for pipe replacement this year. Some of the money will go towards replacing more of the 70,000 lead laterals in Milwaukee alone. Laterals bring water from mains in the streets to homes and other properties.
The Biden administration has made pipe replacement a priority, in part to reduce childhood exposure to lead. Kids with lead in their bodies may especially face learning challenges and other problems.
During a brief Milwaukee speech, Harris said there is an intersection with replacing pipes and many other topics "because this is an issue about public health. This is an issue about education. This is an issue about environmental justice."
Harris also met Milwaukee activist Deanna Branch. Branch told reporters how she and her son Aiden suffer health problems related to lead exposure.
"I am not alone. Too many moms are going through the same thing I went through. And too many little boys and girls are going through what Aiden went through," Branch said.
Branch said she's thankful federal money is coming for lead pipe replacement.
Harris said replacing pipes also intersects with the workforce. "This is an issue about the beauty and importance and strength of our labor unions and their apprenticeship programs. This is about growing the middle class because it is about developing the skills to do the work that must be done to strengthen the United States of America and our infrastructure," the vice president said.
Harris spoke at a labor training center known as WRTP/BIG STEP on Milwaukee's near west side. On a brief tour, she met with Kylen Lenoir and Reshawn Spivey, two young men who work on pipe replacement projects. Harris asked about their union membership.
One man replied that he's with the Laborers union, the other with the Plumbers union.
Harris says the Infrastructure Law will prompt more training and jobs for talented people in the community.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin briefly criticized the vice president's visit, saying she was doing damage control for what the GOP says is President Joe Biden's "disastrous" first year in office.