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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Wisconsin Misses Chances to Cut Risk of Lead Exposure in Drinking Water

Jan 15, 2017
Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Fearing that lead from drinking water had poisoned their children, nearly 30 people gathered on a December evening to press for answers.

The event at the House of Prayer, a small church on Milwaukee’s northwest side, was organized by Tory Lowe, a community activist working to raise awareness of lead-in-water issues.

SIDDHARTHA ROY / FLINTWATERSTUDY.ORG

While the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, got most of the headlines in the last year, other issues with lead contamination have beset other cities such as Washington, DC and Milwaukee.

The City of Milwaukee announced measures to replace pipe laterals in older homes and businesses in the coming year. And while some say the city’s response was late in coming, others believe Milwaukee’s approach has been - if not proactive, at least responsive.

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