Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Council Responds to Lead Crisis

Following Health Dept fallout, nine bills introduced to address lead poisoning issues.

By - Jan 23rd, 2018 04:22 pm
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2016-2020 Milwaukee Common Council being sworn in

2016-2020 Milwaukee Common Council being sworn in.

While controversy continues over the city’s failure to notify up to 1,500 families with children having elevated lead levels, the Milwaukee Common Council is moving quickly to respond to other potential shortcomings in the city’s lead abatement programs.

Council members have introduced nine separate resolutions aimed at everything from placing lead warnings in every water bill to replacing lead laterals in every city-owned home. Additional resolutions deal with everything from getting a cost estimate on replacing every lead lateral in the city to auditing the beleaguered Health Department.

The bulk of the ordinances come from two council members: Public Works Committee chair Robert Bauman and mayoral candidate Tony Zielinski. Bauman has introduced three files regarding the issue of lead poisoning, while Zielinski has gone even further by sponsoring five files.

The issue came to the forefront on Friday, January 12th when Mayor Tom Barrett announced the resignation of Health Department Commissioner Bevan K. Baker. At that press conference, Barrett revealed the city would be sending out notifications to approximately 8,000 families who had children test positive for elevated lead levels. The council opened an investigation into the issue on January 17th.

A subsequent four-hour-long meeting of the Common Council, Mayor, City Attorney and representatives from the Health Department on the afternoon of the 17th resulted in more questions than answers for some council members. Characterizing the responses given by members of the Health Department, Ald. Jim Bohl remarked: “It seems that it’s ‘I don’t know’ on top of ‘I don’t know’ on top of ‘I don’t know.’”

The Steering & Rules Committee ultimately went into closed session at the meeting to discuss personnel-related issues, including an ongoing investigation of Health Department staff.

Former commissioner Baker came under increased scrutiny when a January 19th Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story revealed that he received a 2015 memo from a deputy that detailed how replacing water mains would disturb lead laterals connecting homes to the system and raise water-borne lead levels. Barrett denied ever having received the memo in an interview with the MJS, reportedly fighting back tears at one point during the interview.

The first of the files, detailed below, will be heard Wednesday morning at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Public Works Committee.

List of Resolutions and Proposals:

Analysis and legislation description comes from city’s Legislative Reference Bureau.

171543: Substitute resolution relating to the reporting of findings from any internal and external investigations of the Milwaukee Health Department and the City of Milwaukee’s efforts with respect to lead abatement.
Analysis: This resolution directs all City departments to share the results of any internal and external investigations of the Milwaukee Health Department and the City of Milwaukee’s efforts with respect to lead abatement with the Common Council at the same time they are shared with the office of the Mayor.
Sponsor: Ashanti Hamilton
In Control: Steering and Rules Committee

171541: Substitute resolution relating to project eligibility for financial assistance through the city’s STRONG Homes Loan Program.
Analysis: This resolution adds replacement of lead water laterals to the list of projects eligible for financial assistance through the city’s STRONG Homes Loan Program.
Sponsor: Robert Bauman
In Control: Finance & Personnel Committee

171538Resolution relating to the replacement or repair of lead drinking water service lines and surfaces containing lead in city-owned properties.
Analysis: This resolution directs the Department of City Development to develop and implement a program to replace lead drinking water service lines in all city-owned residential properties of one to four units, except properties scheduled for demolition.
Sponsor: Robert Bauman
In Control: Public Works Committee:
Notes: Alderman Tony Zielinski has introduced an amendment that would expand the scope of the ordinance.

171536: Communication from various city agencies relating to the replacement of lead service lines, the testing of homes and residents for lead exposure, and efforts to make the public aware of the problems caused by lead service lines.
Sponsor: Robert Bauman
In Control: Public Works Committee
Notes: This is a communication file, not a resolution. It will not directly alter city policy.

171534Resolution relating to Commissioner of Public Works’ identification of costs associated with the replacement of lead laterals, lead pipes and the provision of water filters.
Analysis: This resolution directs the Commissioner of Public Works to estimate the costs of:

1. Replacing drinking water lead service lines connecting all properties in Milwaukee to water utility mains.
2. Replacing lead-pipe plumbing in all properties in Milwaukee.
3. Providing water filters capable of eliminating lead in drinking water, and replacement filters when needed, to all residential properties in Milwaukee connected to the water utility main by lead drinking water service lines.
4. Providing water filters capable of eliminating lead in drinking water, and replacement filters when needed, to all residential properties in Milwaukee occupied by households with household incomes below the Federal Poverty Level which are connected to the water utility main by lead drinking water service lines.

This resolution further requires the Commissioner of Public Works to report these cost estimates to the Common Council by February 28, 2018.
Sponsor: Tony Zielinski
In Control: Public Works Committee

171533: Resolution for a request for proposal relating to blood lead level testing and testing for lead in drinking water.
Notes: Full resolution not yet introduced, no analysis available.
Sponsor: Russell W. Stamper, II
In Control: Public Safety & Health Committee

171531: Resolution relation relating to the UniteMKE Lead Education Initiative
Notes: Full resolution not yet introduced, no analysis available.
Sponsor: Tony Zielinski
In Control: Public Safety & Health Committee

171524: Substitute resolution directing the City Clerk’s Office to prepare and issue a request for proposals to conduct a comprehensive operations audit of the Health Department.
Analysis: This resolution directs the City Clerk’s Office to prepare and issue a request for proposals to conduct a comprehensive operations audit of the Health Department. The audit shall place emphasis on the Health Department’s lead poisoning prevention programs. The selected auditor shall provide progress reports on the audit to the Steering and Rules Committee every two weeks and a comprehensive report of findings within 90 days.
Sponsor: Russell W. Stamper, II, Tony Zielinski, Jose G. Perez
In Control: Public Safety & Health Committee

171523: Substitute resolution relating to Milwaukee Water Works water bill lead-in-water safety inserts and dissemination of other lead-related information.
Analysis: This resolution directs the Milwaukee Water Works to include lead safety inserts with every city water bill, rather than semi-annually, and to meet the same standards that the Health Department is held to for providing ongoing community updates to the public related to lead safety. The Water Works is also directed to incorporate a secondary lead safety insert with city water bills on a semi-annual basis with additional lead safety and lead service line replacement information.
Sponsor: Tony Zielinski
In Control: Public Works Committee

171520: Resolution amending Common Council File Number 160964 relating to testing for lead of drinking fountains and faucets at all city-chartered schools.
Analysis: This resolution amends File Number 160964, adopted by the Common Council January 18, 2017. The resolution clarifies the effect of the resolution by stating the following:

1. Charter schools shall create a contractual obligation with any outside vendor for food preparation, requiring the food preparer to conduct lead-in-water testing on all water fixtures at the food preparer’s expense.

2. Lead-in-water testing at all charter schools will be conducted on an annual basis, with the city paying for the initial test each year; after two consecutive satisfactory test results, testing shall be conducted on a three-year cycle.

3. Charter schools shall provide sufficient access to the Health Department to conduct testing on a non-school day.

4. Initial certified test results shall be submitted by August 1 of every year.

5. Any fixture not meeting the required federal standard shall remain out of service until the fixture is brought into compliance at the school’s expense and a certified test is performed at the school’s expense verifying that the fixture is in compliance.
Sponsor: Jim Bohl
In Control: Steering & Rules Committee

171509: Communication from the Health Department regarding recommendations for lead testing and avoiding lead exposure.
Sponsor: Tony Zielinski
In Control: Steering & Rules Committee
Notes: This is a communication file, not a resolution. It will not directly alter city policy.

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