The Lead Waters of Racism in Milwaukee


Fresh, Safe Water\\ for all children

Easter 2007 I wrote an essay about structural racism in Milwaukee called The Sweet Waters of Discrimination in Milwaukee. Now 9 years later I understand the prophetic nature of that title. Lead tainted water flows in Milwaukee water pipes in minority neighborhoods and politicians, major media and city leaders on the left and right pretend it is no big matter and offer only stopgap measures.

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) recently reported that the blood lead poisoning levels among children in Milwaukee, WI are worse than the lead poisoning of the children in Flint, MI.

A recent report by the Public News Service states that Lead Poisoning in Wisconsin is among the worst in the Midwest. The report states that while Flint, Michigan had 4.9% of children, 6 and under, with elevated levels of lead in the blood stream. Milwaukee had 8.6% of children with dangerous levels of lead in blood. (5 micrograms per deciliter).

Now only are young children in Milwaukee suffering higher levels of toxic lead and its devastating effects but it is in the racially segregated African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods that have the majority of lead water pipes and the highest percent of children with lead poisoning. The predominately African American zip codes in Milwaukee have 56.8% of lead water pipes in residential homes and have 12.8% of children 6 and under with elevated levels of lead in the blood stream. The predominately Hispanic zip codes of Milwaukee have 23.8% of lead water pipes and 6% of children have elevated lead high blood levels. While in the predominately white zip codes of Milwaukee there is 19.3% of lead water pipes and only 3.55% of children have high blood levels. In one of the most racially distressed zip code of 53206, which is over 95% African-American, according to the City Health Commission, 19.9% of children, 6 and under, tested in 2015, had elevated levels of lead in their blood stream, 4 times the lead blood levels of children in Flint.

When we look at rates for homicides, infant mortality, unemployment, poverty, and education levels by zip code school, the same structural racial pattern exist in Milwaukee. See Racial Division Chart Below, Racial Division Maps

Long term effects of lead poisoning to infants and young children are well known, and often show up later in life as irreversible brain damage, cities with lead water pipes having a 24% greater homicide rate, physical and learning disabilities, nerve damage and more.

Experts tell us that methods like letting water run, using water filters, drinking canned or bottle water, coating the lead water pipes are only temporary stop gap methods. The only solution to the danger of lead in the water is replacement of lead water pipes to homes, like was done in Madison and now being done in Flint, Michigan.


Lead Water Pipes for Minorities

New Sports Arena
for downtown

Milwaukee spends millions and millions of dollars to develop the growing white dominated areas of downtown and near West, East and South sides bordering downtown but has no money in the 2017 City budget for lead water pipe replacement. City officials talk about Milwaukee being the Fresh Water Capitol of United States. However, by ignoring issues, like lead pipe replacement, that are at the root of poverty, racism and violence Milwaukee is becoming the structural racism capitol of the US.

Doing more of the same old, same old to end poverty racism and violence only is leading to more poverty, racism and violence. It is time to deal with causes and to stop the flow of lead tainted water into our racially segregated minority neighborhoods.


Racial Division Chart

Racial Segregation in Milwauke

New White Milwaukee Development



Where the lead water pipes are

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Page last modified on November 03, 2016

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