Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

State Drags Feet On Lead-Tainted Water

Its program underfunds Milwaukee while pushing for upgrades that residents can't afford.

By - May 3rd, 2016 12:10 pm
Crews replace lead service lines leading into a home. Photo from the Madison Water Utility.

Crews replace lead service lines leading into a home. Photo from the Madison Water Utility.

In the wake of the national scandal over how state officials in Michigan handled drinking water in Flint, government officials across the nation are treading carefully on this issue. That would appear to include Wisconsin’s state leaders, but appearances, it turns out, can be very deceiving.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently announced what it hailed as “innovative” program, that got considerable coverage from the press. It would allocate $11.8 million to local communities to pay for replacement of lead service lines owned by private homes.

The problem for cities like Milwaukee is they can replace aging main lines carrying water but the lead lateral lines connecting from the main line to homes are owned by homeowners, most of whom can’t afford to pay for this. “Many homeowners are unable to afford complete replacement of lead service lines, which can range in price but averages about $3,000 per home,” the DNR press release noted. In Milwaukee you can have homes worth as little as $30,000 where it could cost $6,000 to replace the lateral.

The DNR’s “innovative” idea actually originated with the administration of Mayor Tom Barrett, who called for a state program like this back in January “This is a statewide problem,” Barrett said. “And we believe we’ve brought this problem to the state’s attention.” City Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker had written state officials to create a partnership with municipalities “to remedy this situation on behalf of all citizens in Wisconsin.”

As for the funding in the new state program, it is actually federal money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, which had decided to allow states to use its funding for lead service line replacements on private property.

Still, the DNR had acted — and promptly — on these urgings from city and federal officials. Except that it decided to allocate the money in a way that sends far more to Republican areas, and far less to Democratic Milwaukee, which faces by far the hugest problem.

How huge? Some 70,000 of the estimated 176,000 lead service lines in the state are in the City of Milwaukee. That’s 40 percent of the state’s problem, yet the funding formula announced by the state would give Milwaukee $750,000 or just 6.4 percent of the $11.8 million in EPA funding the state is distributing. At that rate of funding it would take 280 years to replace all the privately-owned lead laterals in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, state officials are pushing the city to continue replacing its main lines, even though there is abundant evidence this could cause lead poisoning.

The state Public Service Commission or PSC oversees the city water utility and had approved an increase in the utility’s rates, to help pay for replacing at least 15 miles of water mains per year. But given mounting evidence nationally that replacement and reconnection of the iron main lines to lead laterals can lead to lead leeching into tap water, the city did testing in 2015 of what happened to tap water in homes when water mains they connect to are replaced. The testing was done in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Department of Natural Resources and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The results showed lead levels increased in the tap water.

Given federal EPA guidelines saying that no level of lead is safe, the city announced it would immediately suspend replacement of water mains connecting to lead laterals, “while agencies work together to develop a plan to move forward.” Carrie Lewis, superintendent of the Milwaukee Water Works, wrote this in a letter to former Republican legislator Jeff Stone, now the administrator of Water, Compliance & Consumer Affairs for the PSC to explain the situation. “It was the strong and unanimous recommendation of these national experts” with the EPA and state agencies, she wrote, that removal of only the city’s water lines without removing the connecting lead laterals owned by homeowners would be potentially harmful to residents’ health.

To meet the PSC mandate of replacing at least 15 miles of water main lines in 2016 and yet protect residents from lead poisoning, Lewis wrote, the city will replace main lines connected to newer copper laterals. But she noted that “it was highly unlikely that more projects can be bid out in time this year.”

Stone’s response was unbending, saying the water utility must work with the city to “ensure replacement of the lead services happens during the planned main replacements.”

At this point, Bevan Baker wrote the state Department of Health Services and DNR, both of which were involved in the city testing that showed removing the main lines connecting to lead laterals would cause lead poisoning. The letter noted the PSC response to the situation. The response to the city from Cathy Stepp, head of DNR, was that her department “strongly supports local governments replacing full lead service lines.” The response from Kitty Rhoades, Department of Health Services, was to ignore the PSC mandate and declare “it is our shared hope that service line replacement be done in a way that prevents… a health concern.”

All three officials were unwilling to budge regarding the potential problem caused by disconnecting mains if you don’t also replace lead laterals at the same time. Nor were they willing to suggest how to pay for removing the lead laterals.

In announcing the state’s new program to pay for replacing lead laterals owned by homeowners, Stepp told WCIJ reporter Dee Hall her agency recognizes that the cost of replacement is a big barrier to utilities and private property owners alike. This program “offers an effective way to fill the financial gap,” she said.

Yes, effective for everyone but the City of Milwaukee. The funding formula arguably shortchanges Racine, the city with the second biggest lead pipe problem: it will be eligible up to 4.2 percent of the state funding and has 5.9 percent of the state’s lead pipes. And West Allis would be slightly underfunded, compared to its share of old lead pipes. But any other community in the state will actually be eligible to get a greater percent of the funding than their respective percent of the problem. While Milwaukee gets the shaft.

City officials will privately say the administration of Gov. Scott Walker “hates Milwaukee” because Barrett ran against Walker in the 2012 recall election. Whatever the reason, we have a state government that seems to be going out of its way to punish Milwaukee’s taxpayers. The state decision to force Milwaukee to pay for relocating utility lines in creating the streetcar is another example; in every other kind of transportation project for local communities, the utility company pays the costs. Only in Milwaukee will taxpayers pay for this.

The last time I checked, Milwaukee was still part of the state of Wisconsin. If the state is serious about combatting lead poisoning, it should be allocating the federal money it receives to where the real problems are. And that, by the way, would allow the city to comply with the PSC order while not risking the health of city residents.

Correction: an earlier version of this story wrongly reported the city’s main lines were made of lead. They are made of iron.

Update 8:15 a.m. May 4: Responding to my query to the state DNR as to whether the allocation of federal money for lead lateral replacements underfunds the state’s major problem area, Jennifer Sereno, Section Chief of External Communications for the Wisconsin DNR got back to me after the story’s publication to say this:  “Our goal is to help as many municipalities as possible fully replacing lead service lines. The proposal is out for public comment, comments are due by May 10th and can be submitted to Robin Schmidt at; or mail to Robin Schmidt, Community Financial Assistance, WI DNR, P.O. Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921.”

82 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: State Drags Feet On Lead-Tainted Water”

  1. dk mke says:

    A couple things to add to this topic. And I don’t necessarily bring these up to be contrarian.

    I’ll acknowledge I could be wrong on this, but I don’t believe there are lead mains in Milwaukee. They are water mains with lead joints. You can argue that’s a distinction without a difference, but in terms of the fear it generates, I’d suggest it’s a valid point.

    The article mentions testing showed increases in lead in the household water after main replacement. I’d like more information on this. How many laterals tested? Was it main replacement, or lateral replacement, or both? How long did the effects last (especially given that the City does successfully treat it’s water supply system for lead corrosion)?

    Wouldn’t supplying residents with bottled water for a day, a week, even a month be a considerably cheaper option than dig up and replacement of laterals? Again, going back to the City test, I find it a little bothersome that one qualitative data point is given as evidence we need to spend many many millions of dollars.

    Never underestimate the ability of politicians to over-react, or as I might suggest in this case, mis-react to “the furor over what happened in Flint”. How apples to apples is Flint and Milwaukee on this issue? What evidence do we have thus far?

  2. M says:

    Who will lead on insisting that the state allocates an appropriate ratio of this federal funding to replace the lateral pipes and prevent citizens from being poisoned? If Barrett is viewed as a persona non grata by Walker and GOP legislators, what about Chris Abele. Why not use all his “bipartisan” relationships to actually fix something crucial in his county?

    Yesterday Abele announced at his inauguration in Amani (53206) that he would do everything in his power to address problems in the central city. Helping to prevent residents from being poisoned would be a worthwhile place to start.

  3. Bruce Murphy says:

    To dk mke; there is unanimous agreement of all levels of govt that lead mains and laterals need to eventually be replaced, given that any lead is dangerous for people. The argument is about how to do it and how to pay for it.

  4. dk mke says:

    Understood, and appreciate lead is bad, don’t disagree that they should go.

    However what’s the urgency here now? Flint created a crisis of their own doing (and I’m in favor of doing what it takes to undo their mess). But we are not Flint. Not here, nor in Republican Racine. We test our water for lead at the tap and under normal circumstances, there are no issues because we treat our water.

    Now we’ve become aware of a potential problem when the existing lateral is disturbed. That’s bad, and needs to be addressed. I still ask, how long does that impact linger? There is evidence (I believe in the JS story?) that it goes away within a few weeks. Again, bottled water for 3 weeks is a LOT cheaper than replacement.

    I mean, really, we have two options here. We panic and just replace all laterals next week because any amount of lead is bad, or we do this intelligently, following the data.

    I live in a house with a lead lateral (as I suspect you do too). If any lead is bad, are you and I negligent people for not replacing our lateral tomorrow?

  5. Joyce Ellwanger says:

    The other situation that is being ignored by the state is lead contamination in our state prisons. Older prisons like Waupun and Fox Lake routinely have tests that come back indicating unacceptable lead levels. At Fox Lake the public water fountain carried a warning that people drink “at their own risk”. But inmates must drink water that at times has lead particles floating in it. The guards, on the other hand, are provided with bottled water. Milwaukee is not the only place where injustice about lead-contaminated water exists.

    je mke

  6. Robert Miranda says:

    How do they pay for this? Bruce Murphy, you failed to report why those letters between Carrie Lewis, Dr. Baker and Jeff Stone were authored in the first place. How to pay for lead pipe removal? The city of Milwaukee increased water rates (twice in one year). Before doing so they had to get approval from the Public Service Commmmission (PSC). Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) superintendent Lewis rationalized the reason that MWW needed to raise the water rates was so that the city can move to replace mains and lead pipes. The increase was over 10% PSC authorized (annual $9 million extra revenue brought to MWW). Where is that money at? Why hasn’t the city moved some of those funds to deal with lead laterals? Come now Mr. Murphy. I’m all for fighting for Milwaukee. But let’s not get brainwashed in defending Milwaukee. There’s spin from City Hall that needs to be debunked.

  7. Interesting that there is no mention of the City of Milwaukee dragging their feet on lead-tainted water. City officials have known about these lead laterals for over 20 years, yet the have done nothing. They do not even have a plan! The City of Madison put a plan together and now they have no lead laterals. You can read about it here

    This is yet but another failure on behalf of Mayor Barrett’s administration. Focusing so much on downtown and neglecting the rest of the city. If he were to not to spend all of his administrations efforts and resources on the downtown streetcar, the new Bucks arena and the Couture, maybe we could have gotten a plan to begin removing these lead poisoning pipes. Priorities people, priorities.

  8. What about testing the water?

    See what kind of problem exists, in the first place.

  9. Robert Miranda says:

    MWW uses “end of line” water testing. This testing method is not supported by the EPA. EPA states that proper testing of the water should be “front draw”. State has nothing to do with ensuring that public health in Milwaukee is safeguarded, that’s why Milwaukee has a health department. Trying to put responsibility solely on the shoulder of the state is irresponsible and irrational–it’s politricks trying to do so.

  10. Bruce Murphy says:

    To Robert Miranda: as my story notes, the increase in water rates for the city was to pay for main (iron) line removals, not for lead laterals, which are owned by homeowners and businesses and as state officials have pointed out, are prohibitively expensive for them to replace, which is why the state program was created using federal funds to pay for this. The city had been replacing main lines as ordered until the testing program found the lead problem and has now switched to replacing main lines that connect to copper laterals.

  11. Tom – Exactly, in particular the 70,000 homes that we know have lead laterals. The city tests the water city wide, but at concern here are those homes that have lead pipes.

    The other issue is how the water is tested. Currently, the City of Milwaukee does not test the water the way the EPA suggests which is first-draw and flush testing method the city uses end-of-the-line testing method. This could impact the results of the testing significantly.

  12. Robert Mirada says:

    Bruce Murphy: to imply that the city was not aware or caught by surprise by the lead laterals posing a threat to the water before they started working on the mains is inaccurate. City DPW and MWW have known for years about the hazard that working on mains connected to lead laterals presented to families. City has been removing, replacing or repairing mains for years. The difference in the last year is that instead of dealing with 50 houses affected by the main work, they found recently that had to deal with hundreds of homes, which caused them to suspend the work. So for the city to say it’s a state issue is a punt by the city. It wasn’t a state issue when the number of homes affected by their mains work was less than 50 – 60 homes with lead laterals. MWW needs to use more of the money they received increasing our water fees towards removing mains and lead pipes.

  13. RMB says:

    Readers may be interested to know that Robert Miranda and Chris Johnson are affiliated with KingfishMKE described as providing “a near anonymous shield for the political opponents of Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett and other local progressive leaders. Kingfish Milwaukee allied with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity to oppose economic development projects such as the now-approved street car in Milwaukee.”

  14. Tim says:

    Robert Miranda, there aren’t any lead main lines. All the lead is on private property. All pipes on private property are the responsibility of the property owner. Water rate increases don’t pay for pipe replacement on private property.

  15. RMB says:

    Readers may be interested to know that Robert Miranda and Chris Johnson are affiliated with Kingfish Mke, which has been described as providing “a near anonymous shield for the political opponents of Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett and other local progressive leaders. Kingfish Milwaukee allied with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity to oppose economic development projects such as the now-approved street car in Milwaukee…Miranda…was convicted earlier this year in a scheme to steal taxpayer money from the City of Milwaukee and obstruct the ensuing police investigation.”

  16. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yeah Robert Miranda has serious issues. Seems like a peach.

    -Also promoting the forum has been a Republican activist named Robert Miranda, who has spent much of last three weeks loudly attacking Rae and his colleagues. Miranda has also been criticized for using homophobic slurs in the past, has worked to undermine many successful Latino candidates in Wisconsin that Rae and his firm have helped, including Alderman José Pérez, Judge Pedro Colón, and State Rep. JoCasta Zamarippa. Miranda is a faux-journalist who publishes the weekly Spanish Journal, but primarily works under the cover of a website called Kingfish Milwaukee. However, he’s actively worked with the Republican Party, and has been a featured speaker at numerous Republican Party events.
    Kingfish Milwaukee, described as “shadowy” by Urban Milwaukee, has previously been accused of serving as an African-American front group for Sheriff David Clarke, and has also promoted privatizing public schools. They provide a near anonymous shield for the political opponents of Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett and other local progressive leaders. Kingfish Milwaukee allied with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity to oppose economic development projects such as the now-approved street car in Milwaukee. Miranda’s erroneous claims of a tie between Rae and the Koch Brothers, a falsehood which has been rejected by reporters at Urban Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and which was condemned by longtime labor reporter Dom Noth, is not only false but blatant hypocritical as well.
    Miranda has a lengthy legal history, and was convicted earlier this year in a scheme to steal taxpayer money from the City of Milwaukee and obstruct the ensuing police investigation. He’s also been the subject of several restraining orders, and was accused of withholding pay he owed to employees.

  17. Robert Miranda says:

    Bruce Murphy: I never said city mains are made of lead. I said lead laterals which connect to the city water mains affected by the work DPW crews do to the mains. These laterals are on private property, a matter the city has never bothered to resolve with city attorney to get clarification as to city responsibility to get those lead pipes on private property removed. City DPW & MWW only recently asked city attorney for clarification on that question. A clarification city bureaucrats should have had years ago.

  18. Robert Miranda says:

    These are all slanderous statements that cannot be proven. I will hold Urban Milwaukee responsible for allowing these statements to continue. This is defamation. Nothing these people are saying can be proven fact. The only thing accurate is that I was convicted of obstruction. No money stolen. No ties to Americans for prosperity or Koch brothers. I demand these slanderous statements about me be removed from the comments section of this article.

  19. Vincent Hanna says:

    So did you sue the author of the Medium story?

  20. Robert Miranda says:

    That story by Saul Newton was first published on another blog, which was eventually removed from the blog due to many inaccuracy. In fact, this article was used by former DPW chair Mike Tate who publicly accused me of stealing public funds but then had to publicly apologize and retract his statement after being notified by my attorney of our intent to take civil action if he didn’t. I did not know this article was on this blog so I will have my lawyer contact this blog and the author of this false article

  21. Robert Miranda says:

    Vincent Hanna: I see that you currently live in west Des Moines, Iowa. Interesting. So who do you communicate with? I did not know I had a fan in Iowa who follows my work in Milwaukee. Do you have ties to Nation Consulting?

  22. Dave says:

    Real tough guy. Lol. Dump any more solid waste on your S. 24th St. property lately, Robert?

  23. KINGFISHmke has absolutely no affiliation with the Koch Brothers or Americans for Prosperity. These are slanderous statements that bear no merit. Not one commentor, nor Bruce Murphy, can point to one piece of evidence that KINGFISHmke has had any dealings with the Koch Brothers or Americans for prosperity what-so-ever. Nor can anyone provide any factual documentation that KINGFISHmke has worked for or with any group that opposes Mayor Tom Barrett. Lastly, there is absolutely no record or evidence that KINGFISHmke has ever worked for or with Sheriff David Clarke.

    Hopefully, Urban Milwaukee will clarify the false allegations made against KINGFISHmke.

  24. Robert Miranda says:

    Lol…the peanut gallery is on the loose. Just throwing shat around hoping to see what sticks. Keep it coming. You’ll got nothing. Meantime, seems these people rather throw nonsense around than deal with the issue of children being poisoned by lead pipes. Does beg the question. Who are these trolls working for?

  25. Robert Miranda says:

    For Immediate Release

    For more information contact:
    Robert Miranda @ 414-469-4182

    Community Coalition Formed To Address Lead Service Pipe Removal In Milwaukee

    Milwaukee – Community leaders have formally organized and established the “Freshwater for Life Coalition”. The coalition was created to begin a campaign aimed at addressing the hazard of lead which threatens the health of Milwaukee families drinking water. The danger to the drinking water comes from lead service pipes that bring water into 70,000 homes, most of which are located in Milwaukee’s central city.

    The coalition will be engaging in efforts that are designed to ultimately have all lead lateral service pipes removed from Milwaukee residential property.

    Freshwater for Life Coalition will be organizing educational outreach, participating with other coalitions to alert Milwaukee residents of the hazard lead pipe laterals present to the health of families, especially children under 6 years of age.

    The coalition also plans to:
    Partner with organizations to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for lead pipe lateral removal
    Participate in efforts to test the lead levels in the 70,000 homes that have been identified to have lead pipe laterals
    Participate in efforts to test children under the age of six that reside in the 70,000 homes that have been identified to have lead pipe laterals for elevated levels of lead
    Members of the coalition include:

    Ms. Brenda Bell-White – Justice or Else Local Organizing Commitee (LOC)
    Student Min. William Muhammad – Justice or Else Local Organizing Commitee (LOC)
    Mr. Fred Royal: NAACP, Milwaukee Branch
    Rev. Willie Brisco – WISDOM
    Dr. Pat McManus – Black Health Coalition
    Ms. Laura Manriquez – Southside Advocates For A Better Environment (SAFE)
    Mr. Rodney Washington – Environmental Activist
    Mr. Chris Johnson – KINGFISHmke
    Mr. Robert Miranda – Wisconsin Spanish Journal

    Reporters and editors may contact Mr. Miranda for resources and contact information for specific questions regarding lead concerns to any of the coalition members.

    # 30 #

  26. Chris Johnson says:

    Speaking of the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the only organization I know of that secretly works with the Koch Brothers and AFP is Nation Consulting. Unlike the “shadowy” trolls on this blog making false accusations, KINGFISHmke actually has the proof that Nation Consulting, through the founding partner Thad Nation, made contributions to Koch Brother’s funded AFP.

    What say the “shadowy” trolls on this blog about that?

    We have shared the IRS form 990 showing Thad Nation’s organization Coalition for the New Economy giving thousands of dollars to AFP and other right-wing organizations. The IRS form has Thad Nation listed as the Principal Officer with an address using a P.O. Box in Indianapolis, IN.

    What do the “shadowy” trolls on this blog have to show to prove that KINGFISHmke has any affiliation with Kochs or AFP? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

  27. Vincent Hanna says:

    That’s funny. I do not live in Iowa nor have I ever lived there. Vincent Hanna resides in Los Angeles.

  28. David Ciepluch says:

    According to the US Constitution 10th Amendments, one of the States’ main roles is broad powers to protect the heath, safety and welfare of its citizens. GOP actions across states like Wisconsin has been to gut environment and health laws and budgets that protect citizens. Walker appoints incompetent political hacks and stooges in departments like DNR and the PSC that regulate and enforce laws, and fire scientists and expert professionals that have broad understanding of regulations and funding. These long term public servants were on the front line for decades protecting citizen health and the environment, and replaced with Walker’s fools and stooges.

    Scientists and experts have known about lead poisoning issues, wetland degradation, agricultural runoff and surface and groundwater pollution for decades. State officials now claim ignorance after gutting laws and getting rid of experts, and further muddy the waters with their stooge replacements that obstruct any rational discussion. Paid dark money groups further undermine local affairs with misinformation campaigns and frivolous legal suits.

    This is the ugly dark “starve the beast” strategy and tactics that have been applied by Republicans since Reagan to undermine progress and diminish the common person, cover up their war on citizens, and fund these dark organizations that further attack and undermine urban areas that they are at war with. And the sad thing is most people do not understand how Republicans are enemies of the people, by the people, and for the people and the real damage they inflict on Wisconsin and the entire USA.

  29. Chris Johnson says:

    Are commenters on this message board completely oblivious to the responsibility of the Mayor’s administration, in particular Milwaukee Water Works and City of Milwaukee Department of Health, to protect the health of it’s citizens? In this case children.

    Attempting to place all of the responsibility on the state is petty party politics at best. You are putting politics before the health and general welfare of the children of Milwaukee, particularly Black, Hispanic and poor children.

    This is diabolical and demonic, people attempting to do this should be ashamed of themselves. Theirs is a special place in hell for people that knowingly poison children and those that try to defend them.

    “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela

  30. dk mke says:

    Nah, people never conveniently blame those they oppose, right Chris?

  31. Vincent Hanna says:

    Wow Chris get off the high horse man. Mandela? Yeesh. How is trying to place all the blame on the mayor, a man you ardently oppose, not playing politics? How are you any different than those you bash? You should be ashamed of yourself.

  32. Chris Johnson says:

    dk mke – You missed the point. It is not about blaming those they oppose. It is about blaming those who are wrong. It is about blaming those that are actually responsible.

    However, I would not expect those on this message board, nor the contributors and editors of this publication, to hold Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Health Dept. Commissioner Bevan Baker, or Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis responsible for knowingly allowing the poisoning of children in those 70,000 homes. Even though they are responsible.

    Most people know that Urban Milwaukee is just a tool for Tom Barrett and his cronies. This is why you never see any critique of Barrett or his administration, even in this case when they knowingly allow the poisoning of children.

    It is quite cowardly and dastardly when you really think about it!

    Troll on dk mke.

  33. Vincent Hanna says:

    Are you a longtime reader of UM Chris? I don’t recall you posting here before this week. Your comment makes it seem like you’ve never been a regular reader. You seem to be blinded by hatred of Barrett and have a vendetta against him and his administration. You can act like you’re FOR THE CHILDREN but you’re just a self-righteous hater.

  34. dk mke says:

    Not trolling, just trying to bring this conversation back to the level of reasonable adults. THAT is what this site is all about.

    I don’t think hardly anyone in politics is as evil as you painted City officials on this issue.

    And you flat out accuse City officials of poisoning 70,000 children. With what evidence do you have of that? Where is the data that shows that children are being poisoned? My initial point before all the d*** waving started was that if we’re not going to rip out all the laterals tomorrow (hint: we’re not), then we need to move forward as appropriate, following good study, data, and evidence.

  35. Dave says:

    What a couple of douche bags. When was it that Tom Barrett pissed in your Fruit Loops? Get out of your mother’s basement and get some real jobs and real lives.

  36. Chris Johnson says:

    “Vincent”, First of all, take a minute and pull your head out of Mayor Barrett’s butt.

    I have been a longtime reader of UM, ask Bruce Murphy or Jeramey Jannene!. I have been reading and commenting on UM for so long that I know UM will never say anything critical about Mayor Barrett and his administration even when they are responsible for the continuation of poisoning children.

    To place all of the blame on the State and not even mention the City of Milwaukee’s lack of action is the worst form of tunnel vision for news organization.

    The City of Milwaukee has known about these lead lateral for over 20 years and has done nothing about it. They do not even have a plan to address the health hazard. This is neglect.

    Lastly, “Vincent”, if having an opinion that is counter to conventional thinking and a “go along to get along” mentality is being on a “high horse” or “hating”, then so be it!

    Troll on “Vincent”!

  37. Vincent Hanna says:

    It’s not that you have an opinion that rejects conventional thinking (that’s giving yourself too much credit). It’s that you throw out Mandela quotes and claim to only care about THE CHILDREN, but then you accuse the mayor of intentionally poisoning thousands of poor kids, making it clear that you don’t care about bucking conventional wisdom. You just want to pile on a mayor you dislike. You are playing politics while pretending to be above that because THE CHILDREN. You are a phony.

  38. Robert Miranda says:

    majority children of color being impacted. No surprise about the comments made could careless about their health.

  39. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes no one here cares about children and their health & safety save for you and Chris. You two are true heroes.

  40. Dave says:

    I wonder how many degrees of separation there are between these two clowns and Craig Peterson.

  41. Robert Miranda says:

    It’s clear that trolling Vincent will continue his immature rants. On with the discussion. The city has no plan to deal with this. NO PLAN. It’s trying to punt it’s public health responsibly to the state. Public health commissioner has failed us. Public health in Milwaukee failed us. Have you asked for city plan to address to have these pipes removed? Mayor’s bureaucrats simply saying its on private property cannot be an excuse. If that’s the case, Barrett should have already had an opinion by the city attorney as to what can be done by the city already in hand, instead of saying today they’re waiting for Grant Langley to give an opinion regarding this matter, which is what his bureaucrats said in late January of this year at the Steering & Rules committee meeting. No plan is in place to address this matter. That is if you believe flushing the water for 3-5 minuets before use is an adequate plan.

  42. Robert Miranda says:

    Or don’t you mean Eric O’keefe? Lmao

  43. Robert Miranda says:

    I know that the trolls trying to establish the anti-Barrett conspiracy argument don’t care about the issues raised. Deflecting from the real issues at hand will be their angel because they have nothing else to offer for a constructive discussion. I get it. You monkeys keep trolling. That all your good at in life.

  44. Vincent Hanna says:

    I’m not here to claim Barrett is in no way responsible or should be off the hook. I’m not a Barrett cheerleader by any means. Robert sincere question. Why should anyone believe that you and Chris are not rabidly anti-Barrett? You’ve accused him and his administration of poisoning children in Milwaukee. That’s a claim I have not heard or read anywhere else. How does that not make your motives suspect?

  45. Chris Johnson says:

    The only organization I know of that secretly works with Republicans is Nation Consulting. We actually has the proof that Nation Consulting, through the founding partner Thad Nation, made contributions to Koch Brother’s funded AFP.

    We have IRS 990 forms showing Thad Nation’s organization Coalition for the New Economy giving thousands of dollars to AFP and other right-wing organizations. The IRS form has Thad Nation listed as the Principal Officer with an address using a P.O. Box in Indianapolis, IN.

    What do you have Vincent the Troll? You are a joke!

  46. Vincent Hanna says:

    Chris I believe you re: Thad Nation. So you can give that a rest.

  47. Robert Miranda says:

    I base my accusation regarding the mayor’s indifference and poisoning of Milwaukee children by referencing the steering and rules committee meeting in late January of this years in which Alderman Robert Bauman stated:
    1. The city has know of this problem for years
    2. Every time Alderman Bauman asked about lead pipe replacement he was told its “to expensive”
    3. Alderman Bauman begged DPW commissioner to address lead pipes on foreclosed houses (property the city owned) to avoid city liability

  48. Chris Johnson says:

    Vincent the Troll – You should give up trying to absolve failed City of Milwaukee leadership from addressing the lead lateral crisis.

  49. Vincent Hanna says:

    I am not trying to absolve anyone Chris. Pointing out that you and Robert are rabidly anti-mayor doesn’t make me a mayor apologist. I haven’t made excuses for the mayor here. I’ve just pushed back against the two of you. Not the same thing. Robert your trio of points there does not prove that the mayor is directly responsible for poisoning children in the city.

    When did you and Robert first alert the city to this problem? What did you propose they do about it? Did you also get the state involved? When and whom did you contact at the state level? What elected officials did you alert?

  50. David Ciepluch says:

    The top causes of lead poisoning is from pre-1978 housing and dust from decaying lead paint dust in windows and doorways. Children get dust on their hands and put it into their mouths. Lead is water is a source but lower on the risk scale. Outdoor soil along the drip line is another source from flaking paint and children playing in the soil.

    Milwaukee has long had a program in dealing with lead poisoning in homes. The State has been responsible for lead regulations and rules. The State empowers the city to deal with health and safety issues. At the same time, funding for lead safety and risk reduction practices has been reduced at the Federal and State levels by Republicans. Milwaukee had made great strides in lead risk reductions but this has slowed due to budget cutbacks and grants.

    To deal with lead poisoning and many other health and environmental issues, it takes cooperation and funding from local, state, and federal levels. It also takes educated people working towards these goals. When Republicans fire health and environmental experts and cut funding, it makes it impossible to carry on the business of protection of health, safety and welfare.

  51. Chris Johnson says:

    Vincent the Troll – You must not live in Milwaukee.

    No one is “rabidly anti-mayor”. We are “rabidly anti-poisoning of children”!

  52. Vincent Hanna says:

    Accusing the mayor of intentionally poisoning children is something anyone without an agenda would consider rabidly anti-mayor.

    What about the rest of my questions? Can you answer them or do you feel better calling me names and ignoring them?

  53. Vincent Hanna says:

    Interesting points David. I eagerly await Robert and Chris’s rebuttals.

  54. Chris Johnson says:

    Vincent the Troll – Do you live in Milwaukee? By the way you are commenting, I do not think you do. That would explain some of your naiveté to what is truly going on here in Milwaukee.

    If you did live in Milwaukee, you might know that we have been discussing the lead lateral hazard since at least January after it was discovered that there are over 70,000 homes in Milwaukee that have lead laterals, mostly in the inner city where most Black, Hispanics and poor live.

    The City of Milwaukee has not specifically tested the 70,000 homes for lead poisoning. There might be more lead in that drinking water than dust from lead paint. That is part of the problem, the mayor has not called on the health department to test these homes specifically to see if the is an elevation in lead levels. This is part of the neglect.

    Lastly, the mayor IS poisoning the children by neglecting this issue for the last twelve years he has been in office. To ignore the health hazard is to participate in it. We now know that the city has known about this health hazard for the last 20 years.

    Good day.

  55. Robert Miranda says:

    Another point that is of concern is the statement by the Milwaukee public health commissioner during rules committee where he admitted there was contamination. They suspended the replacement of lead piping. So, to say our drinking water is safe and then come back to say there is contamination in older homes is suspect. I want the public the truth. Studies conclusively show that 40-60% of infants consume lead via lead water. It is a secondary source. Lead in water has never gotten the attention like lead paint. It is only because of Flint it is now in the forefront. And we know what criminal acts bureaucrats over there did to keep the issue from the public.

  56. Vincent Hanna says:

    You sure are condescending Chris. Maybe that’s part of the reason why people here greet you with skepticism.

    January was 4 months ago! Of course I’m aware of the discussions you reference. I’m sure everyone else here is as well. That is an extremely short period of time. You act like you’ve been discussing it for decades.

  57. Robert Miranda says:

    The city has no plan to deal with this. NO PLAN. Unless flushing water is the plan, then the children are screwed. Mayor can’t punt public health responsibly to the state. Public health commissioner has failed us. Public health in Milwaukee failed us. Mayor simply saying its on private property cannot be an excuse. If that’s the case, Barrett should have already had an opinion by the city attorney as to what can be done by the city already in hand, instead of saying today they’re waiting for Grant Langley to give an opinion regarding this matter, which is what his bureaucrats said in late January of this year at the Steering & Rules committee meeting, that opinion should have already been known.

  58. Chris Johnson says:

    Vincent the Troll – You never answered my question, do you live in Milwaukee?

    I typically become “condescending” and defensive when being accused of things that are not true.

  59. Dave says:

    Robert, are you operating under the premise that the city doesn’t treat our water to prevent lead leaching from the infrastructure?

  60. Robert Miranda says:

    MWW says the pipes are safe because the MWW treats the water with minerals and chemicals that insulate the pipes to prevent leaching of lead. But what they will not say is that a 2013 study by the US Department of the Interior show the chloramine MWW uses as a disinfectant in the water is proven to compromise that fail safe effort. So leaching is safe to say occurs. Removing the pipes is the only solution. Mind you, these lead pipes were banned by the USA in 1986 for water distribution. 30 years later Milwaukee still has 70,000 properties using them.

  61. David Ciepluch says:

    There is no safe level of lead in human beings. There really is no safe level for many other heavy metals, minerals, and chemicals like aluminum, mercury, tin, asbestos, cleaning products, second hand cigarette smoke, herbicides and pesticides. These materials are commonly found in household products, materials, and cooking utensils yet they still remain in use. All have potential for great harm to the human body and smaller children with longer latency.

    To isolate on one metal and blame singular local politicians is utter ignorance when there are a myriad of health issues associated with housing, public, and commercial buildings. The state has a regulatory responsibility according to the US Constitution’s 10th Amendment to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. Even before Walker took office in 2010, this area had been in decline since Tommy Thompson starting cutting on WDNR. Walker drastically sped up the process and cut more funding to these area including the experts in WDNR, and formerly Department of Commerce, and appointed ignorant fools to the remaining shell departments that are mere facades of what they used to be.

    The PSC sets water rates tthat would allow a more intensive replacement program. Not one word of advice has come from these regulators about replacing lead water mains. Wisconsin held back on the 25 million morgate settlement for Milwaukee that would have helped manage some abandoned homes. It really is systemic failure at the state level. Cities have known for decades about these problems, and so has the state. But this is the “starve the beast” and “demolition by neglect” attitude that extremism has created and left us to deal in the aftermath.

  62. Robert Miranda says:

    Yes, the spiking of lead levels occur when main lines being replaced cause service lines to shake releasing HIGHER levels of lead into the water. I know that. While the city tries to figure out what they can do to reduce this, it will come to light to them that there is nothing they can do but to remove the lead laterals servicing the homes as they go along removing the mains. Which is why I’m calling BS by this administration. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist and tons of engineers to figure out that leaching of lead will be some how magically be prevented while tons of machinery is pounding pavement and digging holes and then more machines come in to physically tug and shove, separating their connection with the main. Why are they stalling? Yet, while they “try to figure this out” there is NO outreach or education campaign by MWW or Health Department alerting and instructing residents on what to do to avoid this hazard from poisoning their families–NOTHING. No plans.

    I think the tap filters would capture lead that does come through the service pipe and the city should pay for those until the lead pipes are removed. MWW can use the PSC approved increased rate raised revenues it got to remove mains, since it’s not going to be removing them until they “figure out” what to do instead of using that money for something else.

  63. David Ciepluch says:

    A child’s nutrition plays a huge role in potential for lead poisoning. Lack of good food and calcium in some families nutrition cycle leads to a higher potential of lead poisoning, since lead (Pb) will readily substitute for calcium. This is the same time that Republicans like Walker have slashed budgets for food assistance and increased drug testing for families in need.

    The GOP’s fraud is systemic and a direct link to many of the problems showing up in society as they violate their oath of office to abide by the US Constitution and protection of its citizens.

    Replacing lateral lines is one of many solutions that needs to include entire housing and building renovation in Wisconsin to update them for the 21st Century.

  64. Robert Miranda says:

    Not sure why you fail to see the urgency in what’s going on here. Especially when 40-60 percent of infants consume lead via water mixed in with their formulas.

  65. Tim says:

    Miranda, why does Walker value Milwaukee infants less? He knows there’s a problem but ensures the money can’t meet the need. Can you explain that?

  66. Robert Miranda says:

    You white people and uncle Toms need to get your act together. I got one group of you saying I’m a right wing plant going against Barrett, now I got the other side saying I’m against Walker. Lift your narrow political blinders off and realize I’m stressing the urgency to get these pipes removed before more infants and children are poisoned. SMDH

  67. Dave says:

    Right on, Robby. I can’t believe the Mayor has yet to wave his magic wand to come up with $400 million to replace private home owner’s laterals! For the children!

  68. Robert Miranda says:

    Right on hater Dave!

  69. Tim says:

    But you’re not against Walker, where have you criticized Walker, Koch & Co’s decisions? It’s like people that are against the streetcar, claiming that they REALLY support a great bus system. Until they have an opportunity to actually support one.

  70. Robert Miranda says:

    This is why I have so much contempt for people who make accusations without facts–especially whites and uncle toms. I guess it’s easier to just be sheep and follow what you’re being told. If you did your homework about me you would know that I write an international column for one of Istanbul, Turkey largest national newspapers, read throughout the Middle East, parts of western and eastern Europe. I have published several articles blasting Walker in my column there when he ran for president and as governor now. Follow the links below. The one link/article is in Turkish but the other link are all my articles published locally. I doubt I’ll get an apology, but haters do what haters do.

    Aday Scott Walker – YENİ ASYA

    Milwaukee Renaissance : PeaceOfMind/In My Minds Eye

  71. apope16 says:

    Clearly Mr. Miranda is correct in this argument and unfortunately my liberal friends are mistaken. I find it hilarious that my fellow liberals are surprised that Democrats or philosophical liberals would be opposed to the streetcar project. I am not at all opposed to streetcars, but I personally am opposed to this project. Why? Because we have very important priorities that need to be addressed first.

    I have heard references to how this streetcar will create jobs. Show me one study that says it will. Give me the citation. The only studies I have read have shown that there is no evidence that the streetcar alone contributes to robust economic activity. Economic growth in areas of streetcars across the country are really a result of hyper investment in the area through the use of TIDs and other economic development tools. Such activity would have happened without the streetcar.

    Second, believe it or not I do not have a car. I also work as an employment consultant in Milwaukee. I work hard to provide jobs to people. I can tell you right now that the greatest barrier to jobs for the 50% of black youth unemployed and people of all ages has been the inaccessibility to get to job locations around the great Milwaukee metropolitan region. A streetcar in a 3 mile radius downtown is quite frankly laughed at by people who live in the hood. It is being built for the wealthier people downtown and does nothing to help the poor.

    Third, based on my second part I will also refute someone who suggested that we as liberals oppose busing. Actually, based on the studies I have read, expanding bus transportation is cheaper on the city and county level than building a street car. What we need is a Southest Regional Transit Authority. I know the late Tamara Grigsby tried to pass something of that sort. This is a better idea than some streetcar for tourists downtown. And yes, I know you are then going to go crazy and say that all of the money had to go to the trolley. That is not true. Not ALL of the money from the FEDs had to go to the trolley. There were a few million in funds used that could have gone to expanding bus services and such.

    Fourth, many people who oppose the streetcar are not conservatives are Walker people. Many people like me are activists for the marginalized and oppressed and people who are Progressive Democrats. Instead of debating the issues you have chosen to resort to name calling because your position is indefensible. Let me tell you why proponents of this streetcar have an indefensible position… It is because in Milwaukee we have over 6,000 people who are homeless, a foreclosure crisis, the 6th highest ranking city for violence in the country, well over 50% of children on reduced lunch, 70,000 properties with drinking water infrasture repairs needed, 888 Dams across the state that are considered fractured, 50% black youth unemployment rate, pollution being dumped into Lake Michigan to the point where it smells like a sewer and people don’t want to even swim in it. We ARE PROGRESSIVES. WE ARE DEMOCRATS. We just believe that you build a city to serve its suffering people rather than prioritize a streetcar for the elite down town.

    Fifth, anyone who puts their priorities in helping elite billionaires have a stadium or some trolley to high valued property areas downtown rather than saving the lives of 6,000 people who are homeless-well-they are either a “neoliberal” or they are secretly Republicans.

  72. David Ciepluch says:

    It takes at least $50,000 and up to $100,000 to renovate old homes with many being worth less than $30,000 and much less. Renovation is the only way to reduce health hazards in older homes that include lead paint and dust that is the number one cause of lead poisoning in children, replacement of lead laterals, asbestos abatement, foundation repairs and wet basements that have higher mold potential, improve property drainage, energy efficiency upgrades with improved ventilation controls, window and door replacements with lead paint, etc.

    Removal of lead (Pb) laterals is one of many other higher level health risk improvements needed on older building stock. All have to be done and the best way is comprehensive renovation of these older homes. We know that cost is an issue, but cost of damaged lives can cost well over $50,000 each year for health issues, path to crime (criminals have a high incidence of lead poisoning), loss of income, and future downward spirals for thousands of damaged families. This is not just a Milwaukee problem. It is across Wisconsin and the USA.

  73. Robert Miranda says:

    There was once a warrenty that was offered to property owners that could have helped them remove these pipes had city bureaucrats been wise enough to renegotiate a new policy–when city requested new bids via RFP. When the company submitted RFP the city failed to act. That was in 2013. Why to this day nothing has happened to do something similar to help property owners unable to come up with the 6k to 10k cost to replace these pipes.

    Why Did City of Milwaukee Bureaucrats Terminate Lead Water Pipe Warranty Plan?
    By Robert Miranda & Chris Johnson, KINGFISHmke
    March 29, 2016

    Milwaukee bureaucrats and elected officials must explain why did the Commissioner of the Department Public Works, Ghassan Korban decide to terminate a service line warranty the City of Milwaukee Common Council approved.

    In November 2011 the City of Milwaukee entered into an agreement with Utility Service Partners (USP), a company that administers the Service Line Warranty Program for the National League of Cities (NLC). The City of Milwaukee agreed to partner with USP in order to provide Milwaukee homeowners with a warranty that covers the costs of repairs to service pipes from the home to the city water mains.

    Milwaukee homeowners are responsible for the sewer lines that go from their home, to the point of connection with the city-owned main sewer. The cost to repair or replace these lines could cost homeowners a minimum of $6,000 or more.

    Homeowners were informed that the warranty protection costs would be $9.50, or $100 for a full year ($8.33 a month). The protection program covered sewer line repairs up to $6,000, plus an additional allowance of $4,000 for public street cutting, if needed. The program was offered at no cost to the the City of Milwaukee.

    Service Line Warranty Program is the only warranty program endorsed by the NLC, meaning the company was legit and recognized as an effective option for homeowners seeking to reduce costs related to water pipe repairs/replacements homeowners are responsible to pay for.

    Milwaukee homeowners received letters from the City of Milwaukee informing home owners of the option to purchase Service Line Warranty. The coverage offered included:
    Generous warranty coverage with an additional allowance for public street and sidewalk cutting.
    Warranty covers failures due to normal wear and tear, including age, ground shifting, fluctuating temperatures, tree root invasion and frozen lines. Participation is voluntary and warranties can be cancelled at any time.
    No service fees, deductibles, permit fees, or lifetime or annual limits.
    Around-the-clock claims hotline, including weekends and holidays.
    Only licensed, local contractors are used for all repairs.
    All repairs are made to local code.
    Most repairs are completed within 24 hours.
    USP handles all aspects of the program and it is offered at no cost to the city.
    The City of Milwaukee terminated the partnership effective November 14, 2013.

    During the January 2016 Steering and Rules Committee meeting, DPW Commissioner Ghassan Korban explained the partnership with Service Line Warranty ended because Mayor Barrett believed a Request for Proposal (RFP) should be issued so that the free market can compete for the City partnership.

    In January 2014 the City issued an RFP for a sewer/water line warranty program. USP provided a response to the RFP on January 21, 2014. The City declined to make any decision related to the USP RFP, and the City did not follow up with a similar program since; in other words, no action to repeat or replace the plan.

    Why did Milwaukee officials terminate a warranty program designed to help reduce costs to homeowners?

    Why would Mayor Barrett’s bureaucrats not see the benefits of this option to homeowners, who are majority Black and Brown living in the most impoverished areas of the city, facing such a daunting costs to remove these ticking toxic time pipe-bombs from their homes?

    Shame on Mayor Barrett for playing politics with the future of our children and city.

    Contact your Alderperson and ask them why did Milwaukee terminate the warranty option and why hasn’t Milwaukee introduced anything similar since. Call your Alderperson at 414-286-2221.

    This city needs new leadership!

  74. David Ciepluch says:

    I am a life long city resident. I reviewed this offer of lateral insurance and turned it down and would assume the risk on my own. I viewed it a just a scam and money maker for the insurer that may not be around when needed. Most inner city residents could not afford it and would not take up the offer. Citizens living at and near poverty levels do not have the ten bucks a month for insurance that does not buy essentials immediately needed.

    I was an accredited trained Lead (Pb) Risk Assessor. Lead in Milwaukee water with Pb laterals and more than a neutral pH is a lower risk. Run the faucet for 60 seconds and any potential Pb in solution in water is removed. There are many other high level health risk concerns in older Milwaukee housing to make them lead safe. That is why Milwaukee Health Department has had a decades long program for lead risk reduction in housing. There is only so much funding to go around. And with Republican austerity on the state and federal level, budgets have been slashed and health worker staffs have been crippled. There is no magic wand to simply make all the risk problems go away – it takes money and expert people power and decades of work and cooperation and political will from all government sectors.

  75. Robert Miranda says:

    To dismiss the seriousness of this hazard only indicates your lack of understanding it. Do you agree that this is a hazard? Do you agree that it presents a danger to the health of infants and toddlers? You just want to pooh-pooh this away. Water is secondary source of lead poisoning. Lead pipes are known to increase the danger. You’re saying no big deal. Right.

  76. David Ciepluch says:

    Lead in drinking water is a health hazard especially children – I agree. Lead paint dust is the leading cause of lead poisoning in children. Homes with lead laterals should run their water at least 60 seconds before drinking and bathing – this reduces the risk and runs out stand pipe water that potentially leaks lead. From a risk based stand point, lead paint problems need to be addressed first. All health hazards should be addressed in buildings to remove the risk. It does absolutely no good to spend millions on removal of lead laterals, and lead paint hazards are still present in building as the highest risk and leading cause of lead poisoning and hand to mouth activity.

    Drinking water in Flint was supplied with acidic river water that is chemically more reactive at leaching lead from plumbing and fixtures. Milwaukee water source is Lake Michigan and testing shows that even after treatment, drinking water has a pH of greater than 7 and is much less reactive with lead plumbing. Most fixtures in almost all faucets contain lead components from brass – a good health practice is run the water for 60 minutes and never use the first flush.

    It would take great cooperation from local, state, and federal government entities to address the health risk needs of buildings locally, and across Wisconsin and the nation. We clearly do not have that political will with austerity mentalities, and blind ignorance of many state and federal officials. I believe it is very cost effective to address all the health risks in buildings and modernize them for the 21st century, and not just isolate on short-sighted lead Pb laterals.

  77. Robert Miranda says:

    Which once again goes back to what to what I said. THERE IS NO PLAN to deal with the pipes contaminating the water in these 70,000 homes. Flushing and testing are not sufficient options and do not constitute comprehensive plan. I understand your point, but the discussion at hand is about lead pipes.

  78. David Ciepluch says:

    A comprehensive plan is needed to address all risks from high to low. As I stated, highest risk is lead paint and number one cause of poisoning. Lead plumbing risk has been reduced by phosphate treatment of pipes and keeping pH of water above 7. An added risk reduction is running the tap water for at least 60 seconds or until water is cold.

    Cooperation with state government is nonexistent. State elected officials are mostly fools that manage government and have created a toxic atmosphere of ignorance, avoidance, and disdain for the urban communities and Democrats. Local government cannot perform this huge monetary undertaking without cooperation from all levels of government. Federal government used to provide a source of grants through HUD for Milwaukee’s lead prevention program but that has been slashed due to austerity measures. It would be foolish to spend huge amounts of funds on lead laterals only when it does minimal on the risk scale to address poisoning.

    So at this current time of obstructionism, and utter ignorance, I expect nothing to happen except a holding pattern as if everyone is holding their breathe and hope a Flint does not happen here. And GOP politicians on the state level just turn their backs and deflect any accountability and surely potential blame.

  79. Robert Miranda says:

    EPA Rejects Flushing Water Method as Effective in Testing for Safe Drinking Water
    By Robert Miranda and Chris Johnson, KINGFISHmke
    March 28, 2016

    “…several cities have advised residents to use questionable methods when conducting official tests for lead content. These include encouraging testers to run taps for several minutes to flush out lead from the pipes or even removing the filter from taps. Such methods have been criticized by the EPA for not providing accurate results, with the agency telling authorities not to use them.” The Guardian

    As tens of thousands of Milwaukee residents are being alerted by the Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) to flush their water for 3 minutes or more in order to remove the danger of high levels of lead, reports are coming in from around the nation indicating that the method in which residents are being told to test their water for lead is suspect at best and flawed at worst.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe there is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children under 6 years of age and can be lethal to the unborn when expectant mothers drink water with high doses of lead content.

    The EPA and CDC notes that paint, dust, and soil are the most common sources of lead, however drinking water can contribute 40 to 60 percent of an infant’s lead exposure.
    Since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan the nation’s interest regarding the safety of our drinking water has been awaken. A report published by the Guardian has raised stunning evidence that many major cities east of the Mississippi River have been using water testing methods the EPA considers inadequate.

    In a recent Milwaukee Common Council Steering and Rules Committee meeting, MWW Superintendent, Carrie Lewis presented members of the committee a PowerPoint report that gave an overall view of the city’s water status, which by and large Lewis reports is safe.

    However, the concern that water leaving the city’s water mains, flowing into 70,000 homes that use lead lateral pipes, has raised serious questions as to how safe the water is once Milwaukee residents use the water flowing through their faucets.

    At issue, as reported by the Guardian, is the method of testing being recommended by municipal bureaucrats around the country, including Milwaukee.

    Many agree that the goal is to remove as much lead from our drinking water as possible. MWW recommends that Milwaukee residents concerned about lead in their drinking water should consider a number of options recommended by MWW officials to help reduce and test for the amount of lead in our drinking water. The primary recommendation made by MWW is to flush the water for three or more minutes before testing or using.

    To protect the public from lead MWW began adding a phosphorous compound to the water around 1996 which forms a coating on the inside of pipes to prevent lead from leaching into the water.

    The MWW also followed EPA regulations by implementing lead testing procedures every year at selected “at-risk” homes that have been identified containing lead pipes.
    However, the testing procedure is being questioned because EPA, according to the report published in the Guardian, rejects the standard practice of flushing water before samplings are collected from the tap.

    The practice of “pre-flushing” taps though to lower lead content in samples and is discouraged by the EPA, despite its widespread use across the United States.
    The Guardian reports that many national water safety organizations share in the EPA’s rejection of the standard testing methods recommended by municipal bureaucrats around the country.

    MWW recently reported that “Milwaukee water is in compliance with lead regulations”. But the report published by the Guardian gives good reason to question the findings of the MWW, recent and past.

    Federal regulations set a lead content limit of 15 parts per billion in drinking water. During the recent Milwaukee Common Council Steering and Rules Committee meeting, both MWW Superintendent and Public Health Commissioner reported that Milwaukee has been well below the federal limit. The recent report published by the Guardian and the EPA’s rejection of standard testing methods used by municipalities however give reason to question those findings based on the methodology used to collect the data.

    70,000 homes face a serious hazard that can’t be dismissed simply because minerals have been added to the water to insulate lead pipes. Children drinking water in these homes simply can’t be forsaken because an inadequate EPA rejected testing methodology indicates the water meets federal guidelines. Flushing water for three or more minutes cannot be the only solution to reducing the hazard our children face.

    The Mayor of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Common Council and every city department from MWW to Public Health must:

    1. Begin testing children immediately for elevated lead in their blood
    2. Begin testing the water in the 70,000 homes served by lead pipes
    3. Initiate a comprehensive strategic lead pipe removal and funding plan

    Flint removed pre-flushing from its tests procedure and now consults with the EPA for more effective testing.

    Nevertheless, the situation in Flint has exposed to us that technical compliance with the LRC is not enough. Since Mayor Barrett received an endorsement from President Obama in this election cycle, maybe he can call the president to seek federal support to help rid our homes of lead lateral pipes.

  80. David Ciepluch says:

    I made no statement about testing water for lead. If you test drinking water, the first run should be tested, and then after running the tap until the water is cold. Comparing the results would show what standing pipe water is contributing in to lead in water. I have over 40 years of professional and educational background in this area so coaching me is unnecessary.

    Running the water till cold before using the water for consumption or bathing does reduce the risk from standing pipe water that has potential to lead. Milwaukee used to have a more robust Lead testing program but the Republican Congress slashed funding in this area. Even at past levels it was not enough.

    As far as Obama and Barrett connections, this has nothing to do with solving a lead and all health hazards in buildings. You miss the main point that it takes all forms of government management working cooperatively to solve the problems of hazards. That means, local, state, and federal political will. This link is broken at the state and federal levels with austerity and starve the beast mentality in all phases of public commons like education, public workers, regulations that support public health and safety, and a state-wide attitude of governance is to turn to their backs on the people with the least voice and political power. An example of our current state government is a higher interest in testing people’s urine as a form of punishment for accepting basic food needs to live on. Walker also wants a urine testing program for unemployment compensation.

    Denying nutrition to people in need is the first line of defense in fighting off any toxins that attack the body, especially children.

    As a taxpayer and purchaser of Milwaukee Water, I would have no objection to paying slightly higher water rates to address lateral replacement in some kind program. The state must be a partner instead of an enemy of people and do their job as required by the US Constitution 10th Amendment (Protect). Milwaukee does not live in isolation even though the state administration treats it that way. Pollution is a state-wide and national problem. Replacing laterals is a small expensive part of making all housing safer.

    The Federal government should not be the piggy bank for Wisconsin. Wisconsin as a state is regulated to protect citizens and tax accordingly and competently manage affairs. As citizens we pay sales and income taxes to address problems and serve the people. Incompetence, gross ignorance, appointing stooges to regulatory and health positions, corrupt ALEC laws, and abject obstruction should not be a shied or defense – same goes for Michigan and their corrupt officials. The former Department of Commerce, the PSC, and WDNR had state rules on the books regulating lead and have oversight. Wisconsin had always received EPA funding for WDNR that acted on their behalf and in the past six years that credibility and funding has been gutted.

  81. Robert Miranda says:

    City of Milwaukee Drinking Water Disinfectant Known to Affect Protective Layer in Pipes-Contributes to Lead Poisoning
    By Chris Johnson and Robert Miranda, KINGFISHmke
    April 18, 2016

    Back in 2009, in the country’s capital of Washington, DC, it was discovered that there was widespread lead contamination in their drinking water which, after a U.S. Congressional investigation determined, resulted in thousands of children with lifelong health risks, and ultimately led to a re-evaluation of the use of chloramine in public drinking-water systems.

    Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia often used for final disinfection in drinking water. Chloramine was considered to be a “safer” disinfectant than its older cousin chlorine because it reduces the formation of certain toxic byproducts.

    Water disinfection byproducts are associated with increased risk of cancer and possibly adverse effects on the development of the fetus, so minimizing their levels in drinking water is a good thing. Yet, chloramines can drastically increase the leaching of lead from lead pipes into the drinking water.

    Lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) went as far to set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    Chloramine itself has been associated with severe respiratory toxicity and skin sensitivity. Chloramine-induced lead leaching might be lessened by the addition of anti-corrosive agents during the water treatment process. Currently this is not being done here in Milwaukee.

    Chloramine + Lead Pipes = Contaminated Drinking Water

    Some scholars suspect lead poisoning had something to do with the fall of Rome. While there is historical evidence that indicate that Roman authorities knew of the hazard lead presented in their water system, the jury is still out on whether lead caused Rome’s demise.

    Milwaukee has a lead hazard issue. It is an issue that Milwaukee elected leaders and City Hall bureaucrats have known about for decades. However, the injustice is not in whether these public servants have or not have known about this danger to our children’s health, the injustice the authorities of Milwaukee must answer to is why they do not have a strategic PLAN in place to address this toxic hazard.

    Over the past few decades’ municipal water utilities transitioned from disinfection with free chlorine to chloramine. However, within the past recent decade there have been numerous investigations revealing increased levels of metal in the water system after the introduction of chloramine.

    According to a 2013 report by the United States Department of the Interior, the change from chlorine to chloramine in municipal water systems contributed to a change in the water chemistry. The report goes on to say that “chloramine and its byproducts, caused higher corrosion levels and increased leaching of the metal into the drinking water.”

    The use of lead pipes for distributing drinking water was banned in the United States since 1986. Thirty years later Milwaukee has 70,000 homes, mostly in the central city, still using service line pipes made of lead. To date, there is no strategic plan by city authorities aimed at removing these pipes.

    In 1991, the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) set lead and copper “action limits” at 0.015 and 1.3 (mg/L), respectively. If more than 10% of tap water samples exceed this level, municipal water works agencies must take additional steps to control the corrosivity of their water. The LCR has strict procedures for monitoring water distribution systems, as well as requirements that must be met should “action limits” be exceeded.

    The City of Milwaukee meets LCR requirements from source to plant water however; Milwaukee bureaucrats wash their hands of any responsibility regarding water that flows into the 70,000 private properties with lead lateral pipes.

    This is where we have a concern. The city uses chloramine as a secondary disinfectant to our water. Chloramine is not a friend to the minerals the city uses, which provide a coating designed to stop the leaching of lead in the water flowing into the home from these lead made service pipes.

    Chloramine is believed to form “higher solubility scales that can increase dissolution of metals.” According to the report by the United States Department of the Interior, elastomeric materials tend to be more strongly degraded by chloramines. “Corrosion issues, such as increased leaching of metals or degradation of polymers, may arise when transitioning between disinfection techniques due to their varying effects on water chemistry”, says the report.

    Who is most at risk?

    The children, the unborn and the future of Milwaukee.

    Long-term exposure to lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in children under the age of six. Lead is toxic to everyone, but unborn babies and young children are at greatest risk for health problems from lead poisoning. Long-term symptoms include behavioral problems, adverse brain development, and anemia to name a few.

    As stated before, the City of Milwaukee currently has over 70,000 homes that have been identified as having lead pipe laterals. The large majority of those homes are in the central areas of Milwaukee where you have large swaths of low-income minority populations, primarily Blacks and Hispanics.

    The negligence, or incompetence, of City of Milwaukee elected officials and administrators to not address this potential hazard is startling. In a Rules and Steering Committee earlier this year, Ald. Bob Bauman testified that he was aware of lead pipe lateral potential hazard and that six years ago he was concerned with the potential liability to the city the pipes presented by selling tax foreclosed homes the city owned that have lead lateral pipes. No mention of the potential hazard to children drinking poisonous water, just concern over being sued for knowingly selling homes that could have poisonous drinking water.

    This declaration of arrogance is indicative of the representative government we have here in the City of Milwaukee.

  82. David Ciepluch says:

    Robert – thank you for the update on Chloramine. I agree that lateral replacement should be undertaken but it is still lower on the risk scale and flushing out the stand pipe water before use is a proven risk reduction method. Funds need to be allocated for many areas of health and safety but this is difficult to do when the state drains taxes from the urban areas, and offers nothing in return even though the state has the regulatory obligation and authority to protect and serve.

    As I have stated before, the state of Wisconsin has the regulatory authority and taxing power to address the issue with experts and funding. Wisconsin governance has turned their backs and is the negligent party in accordance with the US Constitution 10th Amendment and all state laws and agencies that support health and safety of citizens. State government has chosen a pathway of being an enemy of local and urban government instead of a cooperative role. It is a broken relationship.

    I would propose a solution of Milwaukee and Dane Counties breaking away from the state of Wisconsin to form their own state with tax and regulatory authority to address and manage all health and safety issues for citizens since the State has grossly failed in this area. Dane and Milwaukee County would retain all income, sales, permits, gasoline taxes to fund the health and safety requirements. The state’s pension fund would also reside back with the two Counties since they form of the bulk of citizens that paid into this trust fund.

    Lateral replacement is but one of a lower risk lead poisoning items that should be addressed with many other parameter that require urban style management, and not the unfair obstructive governance of the state that takes taxes from the area and returns nothing but insults and corruption.

    Quite simple, Dane and Milwaukee Counties would be much better able to manage affairs, laws, taxes, all services, etc. without the State of Wisconsin that offers nothing in return but insults for our tax dollars we send to them. And laterals would be replaced.

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