Clean Water

Lead poisoning damages children’s brains.

Republican lawmakers block funding to replace lead service lines. Gov. Evers presses ahead nevertheless.

Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes are standing up for children despite GOP lawmakers removing $40 million from the state budget that would have begun replacing lead service lines. His executive order this July directs state agencies to create a position in the state Department of Health Services to work with other state agencies to address childhood exposure to lead.

After the disaster in Flint, MI, that brought international attention to the problems caused by lead in drinking water, you would hope our elected officials would rush prevent such costs (human and financial). The dire ramifications of lead exposure are well known. (Learn more here, from the EPA.

Consider these alarming facts (from Wisconsin Public Radio: Report Calls For State Action To ‘Get The Lead Out’ Of Drinking Water, April 10, 2019)

  • A 2013 DHS survey found nearly 4,000 wells in Wisconsin were contaminated beyond water quality standards.
  • A report released in March gave the state an “F” grade for not preventing lead in school drinking water.
  • The nonpartisan group Wisconsin Environment and the WISPIRG Foundation, who released the report, said the state isn’t being proactive enough to “get the lead out” of schools and day care centers.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended states and communities adopt a standard of one part per billion for lead in drinking water. Lead exposure is harmful to the nervous system and contributes to lower IQs and behavioral disorders in children.
  • The most recent state data shows around 4,300 kids under 6 years old who have been tested had elevated levels of lead.

During his first State of the State speech in January, Evers dubbed 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water.” That included naming someone within DHS to handle replacing lead pipes across the state and secure federal grants for the work. Evers’ clean water initiative included $32 million to improve water quality. That money will be used for a variety of programs, including the clean water fund, which provides financial assistance to municipalities for the planning, design and construction of wastewater treatment facilities and the state’s Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, which provides low-interest loans to municipalities for planning and constructing public drinking water systems.

But Republicans rejected the governor’s proposed $40 million in bonding that his administration said could have replaced about 9 percent of the roughly 170,000 lead service lines statewide.

Since then, Wisconsin lawmakers Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Kalan Haywood, D-Milwaukee, have circulated a bill to increase bonding for lead service line replacement. This bill increases the bonding authority for the Safe Waters program by $40 million and requires the state Department of Administration to allocate up to $40 million.

Republican lawmakers should support these and others measures to protect our children.

What can I do?

  • Contact Rep. Horlacher, Rep. Dittrich, Sen. Nass and Sen. Fitzgerald and tell them to support investments in lead service line replacement and other work of the Safe Drinking Water program. by calling (800) 362-9472 or use this automatic messaging system via the Democratic Party of Wisconsin
  • And VOTE for progressive candidates who will fight for clean drinking water across Wisconsin.