City leaders spar over lead exposure proposal

City overhaul city's recommendations
Posted at 10:33 AM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-21 12:55:47-04

There was a war of words over lead exposure at the public safety meeting in Milwaukee Thursday.

Alderman Tony Zielinski wants to overhaul the city's recommendations for avoiding lead exposure in drinking water, but the city's health department is giving a lukewarm response.

Zielinski's recommendations include mandating that women of childbearing age and children under the age of 6 should not drink water from homes with lead pipes, drinking filtered water instead. Children under the age of 6 would also be tested once a year for lead.

But the city's health commissioner, Bevan Baker, disagrees.

"We need to make sure we are following medical recommendations. We've done that for 150 years. We hope to continue to do that. What we can not do is have politics trump the medical community and science," Baker said.

Baker says Zielinski's proposal is too broad. He believes only the most vulnerable need to be tested and there is no basis for extending the filtering advisory to all locations in the city.

Zielinski disagrees.

"I think we have to do much more as a community to outreach to the public that flushing water isn't sufficient to protect those that are most vulnerable. What's preferred is to use water filters that are certified to remove lead," Zielinski said.

According to the health department, nearly 2,000 water filters were distributed in Milwaukee in 2016. Three-thousand will be given out this year for those who live in older homes with lead lines.

The two sides hope to sit down and come to a resolution.