Report Urges Action on Schools’ Drinking Water
State gets “F” grade for not preventing lead in schools’ drinking water. But lead paint still biggest issue.
A report released this week gives Wisconsin an “F” grade for not preventing lead in school drinking water. It was among 22 states to receive a failing grade out of 32 surveyed.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan group Wisconsin Environment and the WISPIRG Foundation, who released the report, say the state isn’t being proactive enough to “get the lead out” of schools and day care centers.
At the same time, Republican lawmakers are criticizing Gov. Tony Evers’ $40 million bonding proposal to replace lead service lines.
Megan Severson, state director of Wisconsin Environment, said some schools are voluntarily testing water in Wisconsin. However, she said they’re not required to take action to address lead unless levels exceed the federal standard of 15 parts per billion.
“It simply doesn’t protect anybody’s health,” Severson said. “There’s no safe level of lead, especially for our children.”
Heather Paradis, medical director of community services with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, said 5 percent of Wisconsin kids have high blood lead levels. The most recent state data shows around 4,300 kids under 6 years old who have been tested had elevated levels of lead.
Paradis noted those levels have been declining over the years as society moved to unleaded gasoline and banned lead-based paint. Deteriorating lead-based paint continues to be the largest contributor to high blood lead levels in children. However, she added it’s important to consider the individual risks and settings where at-risk groups like children are spending their time.
“Especially for those entities, such as schools and day care centers that house babies and young children, that it is likely also good practice to be testing water and utilizing water filters if lead in the water is a known risk,” she said.
Dr. Morri Markowitz, a clinician with Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, reviewed the study. He said the varying amount and sources of exposure make it difficult to determine what lead levels in water constitute a health risk among children and adults.
“I think the only way to eliminate the possibility of lead poisoning from lead exposure of unknown quantities through water is to eliminate the sources. We put the sources there. We made the lead pipes … It’s all manmade,” said Markowitz. “It should be a manmade fix to get out of it to be proactively protective of kids and adults.”
The issue has become a question of political will as states and communities grapple with questions of how to fund efforts to remove lead from drinking water.
Wisconsin Environment and the WISPIRG Foundation are calling on lawmakers to support Evers’ budget proposal to provide $40 million in bonding to replace lead service lines. They’re also calling on GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos‘ newly created water task force to develop long-term policies to address lead in drinking water.
Assembly Republicans criticized Evers’ plan to address drinking water in a question and answer session with reporters Tuesday. Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, expressed concern the vast majority of the money would go to replace lead lines in Milwaukee.
“We targeted our response to the lead issue as a local opportunity for communities to get involved and provide assistance at the local level rather than people from Marinette funding lead replacement in Milwaukee,” said Nygren. “I’m not sure that that’s necessarily fair from a taxpayer standpoint.”
Former Gov. Scott Walker announced last year the state would provide more than $26 million as part of plan to replace lead service lines. Even so, Vos, of Rochester, said while the “simple answer” is to say government will pay for lead lateral replacements, he supports a suggestion by water treatment companies like Culligan to install filtration systems in homes.
“They had said rather than spending millions and millions and millions of dollars doing lead lateral replacements maybe there (is) a way to do it cheaper and do an osmosis system in a home that would actually solve the problem for drinking water but not have the same amount of money that we spend and have it go further,” said Vos.
However, Stevens Point Democrat Rep. Katrina Shankland, who is vice chair of Vos’ task force, said it’s important for the state to be a leader on the issue.
“When we hear from municipalities, when we hear from homeowners, when we hear from business owners they say they want to do the right thing and they want to replace these lead service lines, but it’s also important to recognize the significant cost,” said Shankland. “So, I think cost-sharing between the state and municipalities and homeowners is important.”
The governor’s budget proposal would also allow a nonrecurring revenue limit exemption for schools to conduct lead remediation or abatement if approved by voters, said Dan Rossmiller, government relations director for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
“This is a complex problem,” said Rossmiller. “Obviously, schools are a focus because that’s where (children) spend a great part of their day.”
The Evers administration says the proposed $40 million in bonding could replace about 9 percent of the roughly 170,000 lead service lines statewide, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Report Calls For State Action To ‘Get The Lead Out’ Of Drinking Water was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
More about the Lead Crisis
- City Hall: 1,893 Lead Service Lines Replaced - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 17th, 2019
- City Hall: Council Protects Tenants Seeking Lead Hazard Remedies - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 11th, 2019
- Council approves ordinance protecting tenants in lead-exposure investigations - Ald. Jose Perez - Jul 10th, 2019
- City Hall: Board of Health Appointments Sail Through - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 27th, 2019
- Rep. Robyn Vining Condemns Removal of Lead Service Line Replacement from Budget - State Rep. Robyn Vining - May 15th, 2019
- City Hall: Who Can Get a Free Lead Filter? - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 25th, 2019
- Chisholm Confirms Health Department Probe - Edgar Mendez - Apr 24th, 2019
- Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) & Get The Lead Out Coalition (GTLO) Support Letter To Milwaukee County District Attorney By Milwaukee Alderpersons - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Apr 23rd, 2019
- City Hall: DA Asked To Consider Charging City Officials - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 22nd, 2019
- Report Urges Action on Schools’ Drinking Water - Danielle Kaeding - Apr 12th, 2019
- A House Divided: Comments from State Rep Show the Current Chasm in Wisconsin - Ald. Michael Murphy - Apr 10th, 2019
- A statement from Alderman Terry L. Witkowski following the March 22 special Public Safety and Health Committee meeting - Ald. Terry Witkowski - Mar 22nd, 2019
- City Hall: FLAC, Get the Lead Out Fight City Over Lead Posioning - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2019
- Special meeting devoted to lead in water issues will feature city departments - Ald. Bob Donovan - Mar 20th, 2019
- City Hall: Council Approves Civilian Health Oversight Board - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 5th, 2019
- Marquette University to host Flint water crisis author Anna Clark - Marquette University - Jan 18th, 2019
- Lead-Free Homes a Priority for Kowalik - Corri Hess - Jan 17th, 2019
- Council approves legislation concerning the Milwaukee Health Department’s lead reporting processes and water filter distribution plans - Ald. Milele Coggs - Jan 15th, 2019
- Forum Examines Lead Poisoning Prevention - Abby Ng - Nov 30th, 2018
- City Hall: City’s Lead Program is Working Again - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 16th, 2018
- League of Women Voters – Nov. 17 Public Program Addressing Lead Issues: A Milwaukee Focus - League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County - Nov 5th, 2018
- Citizens deserve to hear from Bevan Baker in public proceeding - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Oct 22nd, 2018
- Milwaukee’s Young Children Need to Be the Focus - Ald. Mark Borkowski - Sep 24th, 2018
- City Hall: Baker To Testify Before Common Council - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 14th, 2018
- Warning Residents of Lead Dangers - Jenny Whidden - Jul 18th, 2018
- Governor Walker Administration Awards More Than $26 Million for Lead Service Line Replacement in 42 Wisconsin Communities - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 18th, 2018
- Environmental Review of City of Milwaukee Project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jul 9th, 2018
- Environmental review of City of Milwaukee project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jun 26th, 2018
- Common Council approves full lead hazard review for city-owned properties - Ald. Jose Perez - May 8th, 2018
- Legislation mandates lead water lines replacement at child care facilities - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 26th, 2018
- Child Care Centers Still Have Lead Pipes - Edgar Mendez - Apr 23rd, 2018
- Legislation looks to local source for water infrastructure needs - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 4th, 2018
- ‘10thirtysix ’ to re-ring the alarm bell on milwaukee’s lead crisis - Milwaukee PBS - Mar 27th, 2018
- Chief of Staff Comment on FLAC - Patrick Curley - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Evers Demands Action on Wisconsin’s Drinking Water Crisis - Gov. Tony Evers - Mar 21st, 2018
- Op Ed: How City Should Solve Lead in Water - Noelle Chesley, Anne Dressel, John Berges, and Helen Meier - Mar 2nd, 2018
- Alderman Bohl: A better strategy is needed in dealing with lead laterals - Ald. Jim Bohl - Feb 26th, 2018
- City Hall: McManus Lays Out Three Priorities for Health Department - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 23rd, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Leading on Lead Act into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 21st, 2018
- City Hall: Mayor Allows Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2018
- City Hall: Will Mayor Confirm Health Commissioner? - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 14th, 2018
- City Hall: HUD Halts City Lead Treatment Program - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 12th, 2018
- From Dr. Patricia McManus: Comments clarified - Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton - Feb 9th, 2018
- Comments by newly appointed interim Health Department commissioner troubling - Ald. Michael Murphy - Feb 9th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Appoints McManus Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 6th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Withdraws Nannis Nomination - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 5th, 2018
- FLAC Calls on Common Council to Confirm Dr. Patricia McManus as Interim Health Commissioner - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Feb 3rd, 2018
- Silence is Complicity – If You See Something, Please Say Something - Ald. Milele Coggs - Feb 2nd, 2018
- Gag Order for Health Department Employees Lifted by Mayor - Ald. Bob Donovan - Feb 1st, 2018
- Resolution Aims to Take Down Milwaukee Health Department’s Restrictive Communication Policy - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Feb 1st, 2018
- Common Council Alerts At-Risk Populations of Lead Risks After City of Milwaukee Health Department Fails to Notify Public - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 31st, 2018
- Key Details Missing from the Mayor’s Account of Lead Testing Crisis - Ald. Khalif Rainey - Jan 31st, 2018
- What We Really Need: Answers - Ald. Russell Stamper, II - Jan 31st, 2018
- The Administration has Lost the Common Council’s Confidence in Addressing the Lead Issue - Ald. Jose Perez - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Report Finds Health Dept. Problems - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Could Reject Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Aldermen Ask City Attorney for Legality of Paul Nannis’ position - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 29th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $750 Million to Replace Lead Pipes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 24th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Responds to Lead Crisis - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 23rd, 2018
- Legislation seeks lead service line replacement for city-owned properties - Ald. Bob Bauman - Jan 19th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Grills Mayor, City Health Staff - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Launches Health Dept. Probe - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
- Resolution calls for Milwaukee Water to give public lead updates - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Jan 17th, 2018
- Commissioner Baker’s departure leaves us all with many, many questions - Ald. Bob Donovan - Jan 16th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Ousts Bevan Baker Over Lead Fiasco - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 12th, 2018
- Health Department mistakes worsen city’s lead crisis - Ald. Mark Borkowski - Jan 12th, 2018
- Council set to act on Health Department crisis - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 12th, 2018
- Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) to Hold Press Conference After Announcement Of Firing Health Commissioner Bevan Baker - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Jan 12th, 2018
- Is City Dragging Feet on Lead Filters? - Jabril Faraj and Elliot Hughes - Jan 3rd, 2018
- Common Council Strengthens Lead Standards - Jabril Faraj - Dec 5th, 2017
- One Step Closer to Tackling Wisconsin’s Lead Crisis - State Sen. Chris Larson - Oct 31st, 2017
- Advocates Push City On Lead Pipes - Jabril Faraj - Oct 25th, 2017
- Lead Poisoning a “Public Health Crisis” - Jabril Faraj - Jul 19th, 2017
- National Water Expert Retracts Criticism of City Health Department - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Jul 14th, 2017
- Governor Walker Announces 35 Municipalities to Receive a Total of $13.8 Million to Remove Lead Service Lines - Gov. Scott Walker - Jun 28th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: WMC Opposes Lead Pipes Bill - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Apr 20th, 2017
- Op Ed: State Action Needed on Lead Pipes Problem - Chris Walker - Mar 12th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: How Milwaukee Handled “Flint” Crisis - Bruce Murphy - Jan 19th, 2017
- Tainted Water: State’s Failures On Lead Pipes - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Jan 15th, 2017
- Tainted Water: Lax Rules Expose Kids To Lead-Tainted Water - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Dec 19th, 2016
- Tainted Water: DNR Program Replaces Lead Laterals - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Dec 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves Help For Lead Pipes - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 13th, 2016
- Tainted Water: DNR Delays on Lead Poisoning Issue - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Dec 4th, 2016