Who’s To Blame For The Failure To Fix Milwaukee’s Lead Problem? Look Left

MacIver News Service | May 20, 2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. — America’s drinking water “crisis” didn’t just pop over night. 

Milwaukee, one of thousands of U.S. cities found to have lead levels higher than the troubled municipal water system of Flint, Mich., has known about the dangers of lead for decades. 

Yet, Democrats on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee would lead you to believe that their conservative colleagues are to blame for Milwaukee’s lead problems. More so, they believe taxpayers from Superior to Kenosha should have to pick up the tab for Milwaukee’s failure to prioritize a basic local government function: Providing clean drinking water to its citizens.

Five years after Flint, Milwaukee city officials are scurrying to catch up in the heat of public pressure, scandal, and increased scrutiny.

“This crisis isn’t going to go away. It’s only going to get worse,” state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) admonished the committee’s Republican majority members last week. 

While no one denies the dangers of lead in drinking water and that children in Milwaukee and other U.S. communities have been poisoned by unacceptable lead concentrations, what also cannot be denied is the fact that Democrats — and socialists — have been in control of Milwaukee for the better part of a century. And those city leaders could have made replacing lead laterals, the lines that connect the public water main to some 70,000 homes, a top priority years ago. 

“One reason the Flint disaster should not have happened is that drinking water experts have known all about these problems, generically for a long time,” according to the Society of Environmental Journalists. “As far back as 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued something called a Lead and Copper Rule using the authority Congress gave it under the Safe Drinking Water Act … In another set of amendments in 1996, Congress tried to ratchet up pressure to solve the problem. Those amendments banned lead materials in water systems.” 

Five years after Flint, Milwaukee city officials are scurrying to catch up in the heat of public pressure, scandal, and increased scrutiny. 

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation are investigating the city Health Department’s lead abatement programs. In January 2018, Bevan Baker, Milwaukee’s health commissioner, resigned a day before word came down about the department’s myriad failures to attack the lead pipe problem. 

Baker, it should be noted, was appointed to the commissioner post in 2004, when Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, began his mayoral tenure. Activists have demanded Barrett follow Baker out the door.

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