Get The Lead Out Coalition (GTLO) is pleased that, nationwide, lead laterals are finally being viewed as a risk to our public health. Locally, we are glad to be past the early days of this coalition when our warnings about lead-contaminated drinking water were downplayed by elected officials and bureaucrats. We are hopefully well beyond the days of a dysfunctional health department with a revolving door in its leadership and staffing positions. Our coalition is  particularly heartened that this chronic issue has been spotlighted locally by two presidential-level visits in recent years.

It is time that Milwaukee stops being a laggard on lead lateral removal and, instead, embrace a leadership role on this critical public health issue. We appreciate that the city is adopting much of the language in GTLO’s first mission statement and are now finally discussing the need for a proactive plan that targets communities most at-risk for lead poisoning. We are pleased that at least in rhetoric, elected officials at the city are pushing for a 10 year goal like the current President has promised.

Another area where Milwaukee has lagged on lead laterals is the ‘nickel and dime’ approach to this public health issue as it relates to billing homeowners and/or commercial property owners. It is important to remind people that the city mandated the installation of these lead laterals in 1872 under the direction of Mayor Ludington. The Milwaukee Common Council went on to arbitrarily split ownership and control of these mandated lead laterals in the early 1990s. Numerous cities, including Denver, Newark and Boston, to name a few, are acknowledging their role in creating this health crisis by creating aggressive programs that do not bill individual property owners or tenants for the mess that their city governments helped create. We need to see this same, aggressive solution here in Milwaukee. Our coalition believes that billing individuals will only slow progress and place another undue tax on people who deserve a lateral that does not pose a health risk to their family.

While our coalition is happy to hear public officials voicing their concern for this important issue, this attention is long overdue. It is imperative that our elected officials think about the greater good for our residents and stop harming community members. Consistent attention, proper funding and a comprehensive, transparent plan that includes community oversight is the best way moving forward to protect our public health for good.

Get The Lead Out Coalition (GTLO) is a Milwaukee community frontline grassroots group established in 2018. GTLO is leading the campaign to remove 70,000 toxic lead service lines tainting Milwaukee freshwater with lead.

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