Hundreds of people line up for free water filters in Milwaukee

Posted at 10:14 PM, Nov 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 23:49:57-05
MILWAUKEE -- City officials estimate that about 70,000 Milwaukee homes are in need of a lead lateral replacements. Until that's done, the city is offering free filters to people who live in homes with lead laterals.
More than 500 hundred people lined up to get a water filter at Kosciuszko Park Wednesday night, but more than half of them walked away empty-handed. There just weren't enough to meet demand.
"Obviously this turnout proves there are a lot of people who are worried," Coke Morris said. 
Worried about lead in their drinking water, and how it could be affecting them and their families.
"I have a grandson that's four months old, and I'm really concerned," Terrance Jines said. "I think it's very important that they're offering free water filters."
"My kids are growing," Carrie Bickerstaff said. "I don't know what lead in the water is doing to their bodies or brains. We should all have clean drinking water no matter where we live."
Local health workers were at Kosciuszko Park helping distribute the water filters, and showing people how to properly use them.
"We see a lot of babies come into our clinics with high lead levels," said Alison True with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers. "People are becoming more aware of this issue, which is good. We educate them on testing drinking water, the paint in your home, and even soil around your home for lead."
While offering free water filters is a great first step, it's only a short-term fix. Families hope the city is working on a long-term solution.
"I think this is a big problem that hasn't really been addressed yet," Jines said. "This is just the beginning."
"I would like to hear some more options," Morris said. "Those pipes can't stay there forever."
"I'd like to know that there's a plan to replace those pipes to our houses and that homeowners aren't going to have to pay for it," Bickerstaff said. "It's not our fault. We didn't build these houses. I think that these things should be fixed by the city, and they should give us a clear timeline of when it will be done."
Those who didn't get a water filter wrote down their names and contact info, so they can hopefully get one in the near future. 
Filters are also available on weekdays at the Social Development Commission at 1730 W. North Ave.
City leaders are currently looking into the cost and feasibility of replacing lead-lined laterals. Currently, the city treats its drinking water to reduce the risk of lead exposure and is meeting EPA guidelines.