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Part 1 Poison in Milwaukee Water

The Flint Michigan water crisis has made us all aware of the lead in water poisoning in our children. However, are you aware that “4.9 percent of children diagnosed in 2015 in the Flint region, where state and federal officials have declared a state of emergency over the spike in lead in drinking water and children’s blood, had unacceptable levels of lead in their blood.”

However in Milwaukee “the percentage is even higher: 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The high numbers of blood lead levels in both Milwaukee and Flint do not include infants till 1 year of age. “Infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.” Also the brain of an infant is more vulnerable t o the permanent brain damage caused by lead.

Mayor Tom Barrett and the City Council of Milwaukee have been aware for a long time that about 70, 000 homes, mostly in low income black and brown neighborhoods have lead lateral or service pipes from the main water pipeline into home.

City Water passing though these pipes is contaminated with lead poisoning. An attempt to help city and home owners to replace these lead pipes was passed by the City Council in 2011, over the veto of Mayor Barrett. However, the program was discontinued in 2013 by the Mayor Barrett appointed Department of Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban.

In January of this year the Mayor Barrett put “on pause” 5 miles of water main replacement projects scheduled this year in older residential neighborhoods where lead pipes connect municipal mains to around 500 homes.

The disturbance caused by water main replacement, “has been found to contaminate drinking water and present a public health risk especially to vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers,” according to Dr. Baker, long time City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner.

What about all the lead water pipes “disturbed” before January 2016? What about all the lead in water consumed by children and infants since birth?

In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on January 27, 2016 Mayor Barrett said: “This is a statewide problem, and we believe we’ve brought this problem to the state’s attention.”

The City of Madison, also aware of the problem in lead pipes has taken another approach. Since 2001, the Madison water utility has worked with property owners to replace 8,000 lead laterals. While in Milwaukee there are still 70,000 homes with lead lateral pipes and nothing has been done by Mayor Barrett and the Common Council, yet the number of homes with lead lateral pipes in Madison is near zero.

Maybe after the April 5 election the Mayor and Common Council will be concerned by this crisis. However we the citizens of Milwaukee should demand from the Mayor and the Common Council, present or running, a commitment to eliminate this danger to our infants and children.

The next Mayor and Common Council needs to make our infants and children a priority over the downtown streetcar and the new sports arena downtown.

Part 2 Sending our ill to jail! Coming soon!

References:
Milwaukee faces daunting costs with lead water pipes. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Dr. Baker’s letter to State
Lead taints drinking water in hundreds of schools, day cares across USA USA Today

Lead in drinking water poses danger for children, pregnant women Wisconsin Watch
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Hazard of Lead in Infant Formula The New England Journal of Medicine

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