The City of Milwaukee is facing pressure by FLAC, local residents and a growing concern by area business owners after learning that lead toxic pipes laterals are still used for freshwater flow into their businesses.
By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.
June 28, 2016
Milwaukee, WI – Hispanic News Network U.S.A. (HNNUSA) learned that Southside residents, businesses, restaurants, neighborhood bars and nightclubs located in Business Improvement Districts continue to use federally banned toxic lead pipe laterals for freshwater flow into homes and businesses for decades. Unknowingly most customers that patronize these Southside businesses could be exposed with levels of lead poisoning that could be harmful to health. The City of Milwaukee doesn’t regularly check for toxic levels of lead, not even on a monthly basis or conducts constant monitoring to determine, if lead is actually mixing with the freshwater flow. These toxic lead pipe laterals should all be removed as soon as possible to eliminate the potential of long term lead poisoning.
Last week, the Freshwater for Life Action Coalition (FLAC) called for the City of Milwaukee and Mayor Tom Barret to begin the removal process of all toxic lead pipe laterals within the city limits. Southside 12th District Alderman José G. Pérez including fellow aldermen haven’t scheduled any informational forums to discuss the removal of such toxic lead pipe laterals from homes and local businesses.
Robert Miranda, the spokesman for FLAC released the following statement, “Alderman José Pérez has yet to make a statement on this very important issue. He hasn’t called for removing these lead pipe hazards and he hasn’t sent any message from his office urging caution to residents on 13th street about the water. Lead is a very dangerous toxin to children. Perez being silent on this matter is a disservice to his constituents.”
According to Miranda, city bureaucrats are recommending for residents to use water filters as a band-aid solution to reduce contaminants, but the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t test filters to check, if it reduces toxic lead in water. The actual solution is to remove the toxic lead pipe laterals from homes.
Unfortunately, residents pay for safe city freshwater to flow into their homes, but the delivery process is through a federally banned toxic lead pipe lateral.
In March, State Representative Lena Taylor (D-Milw.) in a press release reported, lead is extremely toxic and affects the liver, kidneys, reproductive system and nervous system. Lead’s most dangerous impact is on the brain and can cause serious development problems. It’s been linked to everything from violent crime to low IQ.
Wisconsin Public Television did a great story on the lead issue in which they revealed 4,000 Wisconsin Children tested positive for elevated lead in their blood. 60% of those kids live in Milwaukee. In fact, 8.6% of our kids tested positive for dangerous lead levels compared to 4.9% of Flint Michigan kids. In Flint, Michigan, kids had so much lead in their system that the Mayor declared a state of emergency. Where’s our state of emergency? Where’s our lead poisoning abatement plan?
Is Milwaukee too cheap to save money (and likely save lives) in the long run? The City of Milwaukee estimates it will cost between $511 and $756 million to replace the lead laterals like Madison did. The city currently spends $393,000 per year to add ortho-phosphoric acid to lake water to treat it before we run it through lead pipes in order to keep the lead from seeping into our water. But given our kids’ lead levels, that doesn’t seem to be our best solution.
HNNUSA with Miranda’s cooperation has provided data about the Business Improvement District corridors in the Southside including some residential addresses of the 70,000 homes that have toxic lead pipe laterals, which the Milwaukee Department of Public Works and Milwaukee Water Works has released. A City of Milwaukee map showing properties with lead service line from water main to crub stop includes most Milwaukee aldermanic districts except two that have toxic lead pipe laterals today.
Find City of Milwaukee properties with lead pipe laterals by address at http://goo.gl/poY5yv
Editor’s note: With Summerfest opening on Wednesday, thousands of festivalgoers will be visiting the City of Festivals venue now that more than 100 outdoor festivals will take place during the Summer and many will visit area bars, nightclubs and restaurants, will they be exposed to the freshwater that flows through toxic lead pipe laterals? Mostly likely the chances are that they will and those who drink water from outdoor bubblers and cold water fountains will be exposed to freshwater delivered by toxic lead pipe laterals as well.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel also reported that to replace 70,000 lead pipe laterals, it will cost the city between $511M to $756M and will take from 5 to 7 years, if the city gets federal funding. So far, the city received a $1M loan from the state to replace at least 385 lead pipe laterals at day-care centers as a priority. No public schools get freshwater flow from lead pipe laterals, according to city officials.
Worth mentioning, Robert Miranda from FLAC told HNNUSA that a new study released in April 2016 claims to have found a link between the high murder rates and the use of lead water pipes in U.S. cities. Scientists at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley analysed homicide rates and the cities’ use of lead pipes to distribute drinking water.
Although the use of lead pipes was halted in the United States in 1986, many cities in the US, including Milwaukee, still have lead pipes in operation distributing water to homes.
The study was published by James J. Feigenbaum of Harvard University and Christopher Muller of the University of California, Berkeley in the journal Explorations in Economic History. It says that on average “cities that used lead water pipes had homicide rates that were twenty-four per cent higher than cities that did not.”
Previous studies have said that the use of lead can lead to lower IQs amongst children and higher rates of violent crime after people were exposed to lead in air pollution. The report added that the acidity levels in the water can also change how much lead is dissolved in it — and how much is ingested.
The study says: “Even if lead removal will not reduce crime, it will remove a dangerous toxin from the environment. Other strategies to reduce crime may not have similarly positive side effects.
The study says, “We found evidence broadly consistent with the prediction that more lead will leach into more acidic water and increase the homicide rates of cities with low-pH water and lead service pipes.”
The Huffington Post reports that “Feigenbaum and Muller compiled historical information on pipe materials in 545 cities from 1921 to 1936, and after controlling for a variety of demographic factors, found that “cities that used lead pipes had between 14 and 36 percent higher homicide rates than cities that did not.”