Ensuring Clean Drinking Water: Fixing Lead Pipes

I believe that access to clean, safe, pollution free drinking water is a basic human right that must be safeguarded. Lead poisoning is an immediate threat to that right and to the health of our most vulnerable residents. Addressing lead poisoning must be a top priority of every level of government.

racism-public-health-crisis-chris-larson-milwaukee-county-executiveEach of us should have access to clean, safe drinking water. It is essential to our health and prosperity. I believe that all of us have a shared interest in making sure that our neighbors have lead free water to drink.

Lead poisoning is a serious health threat that can cripple a person’s health and forever limit their potential. Particularly vulnerable are our children. Lead exposure can harm brain development causing decreased intelligence or ability to learn, increased behavior problems, impaired academic performance, increased juvenile delinquency, and more childhood health issues like language delays, hearing loss, reduced kidney function, seizures, and even death. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) estimates that Wisconsin would save $7 billion if lead poisoning was eliminated. Lead poisoning related medical expenses, additional special education costs, and crime all costs our community and state.

Dealing with the lead poisoning public health threat must be a priority.

We know that Wisconsin has at least 176,000 lead service lines that carry water to homes and businesses. Milwaukee County has some of the highest numbers of lead service lines in Wisconsin. This crisis needs to be met with a collaborative and committed response. Local municipalities, state and federal government must work together to eliminate this threat as quickly as possible. Milwaukee County should be an active partner in making our waters lead free.

I have co-authored and supported a number of bills in the state legislature to accelerate removing lead from our water supply. The sooner we can make our water safe, the less chance of having our children and neighbors harmed by this poison.

SB423: Loans to get the lead out: provides loans for lead remediation in schools and testing of potable water sources in certain schools.

SB424: Testing to get the lead out: requires testing for lead in drinking water in recreational and educational camps and child care.

AB399: Bonding to get the lead out: granting authority for bonding of lead service line replacement.

At the County level we can and will strongly support more rigorous testing and help leverage state and federal funds to more quickly deal with this danger. Protecting the health of our neighbors should be a top priority of our county government.