By Mrinal Gokhale
It is well known that Milwaukee has a lead problem and that paint and laterals are the main sources of contamination in households.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett plans to add $2.2 million dollars to the city’s lead elimination budget for the year 2020. He announced his plan at a press conference on Dec. 1 at the Social Development Commission, 1730 W. North Ave.
“This funding is critical because it provides matching requirements for the $5.6 million Lead and Healthy Homes grant from HUD that the city was awarded in October,” Barrett said. “The recommended funding will be in addition to the over $21 million dollars that was included in my 2020 budget.”
If the funds are approved by the Milwaukee Common Council, the city will hire and train 30 more contractors to assist in its long-term plan to eliminate lead paint and laterals in Milwaukee. Forty additional Milwaukee households will also be inspected for lead.
The Social Development Commission provides assistance and advocacy to Milwaukee residents that are living in poverty. The social services agency has worked with the city for years on the lead abatement process, as many poverty stricken homes contain lead.
“The lead issue is very specific to and tends to be more impactful to people who live in poverty,” said George Hinton, CEO of the Social Development Commission. “I’m so proud of the fact that we’re taking action to address the issue that is attacking our community, not only from the standpoint of what it does to our children, but the effects later on in life.”
Barrett said that homes built before 1951 are likely to contain lead laterals and that the city has been working over the years to replace service lines.
“We’ve been aggressive in doing what we can, first in windowsills, and now we’re going for a complete remediation of homes, which takes more resources,” Barrett said. “We don’t have a date [for] certain, but we’ve seen thousands of homes remediated, and we’ll continue to do that work.
Barrett will present the budget to the Milwaukee Common Council this week; he is confident the council will approve the proposal. He stated that he has dedicated over $60 million towards lead elimination since he became mayor and that much progress has been made.
“Since 2004, we’ve reduced the number of kids in Milwaukee that have tested for lead by over 70 percent,” he said.
Jeanette Kowalik, City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner, said that the health department has been working tirelessly to educate the community on the dangers of lead poisoning.
“We’re in the process of doing a call for volunteers to come together and create a plan to eradicate lead from the City of Milwaukee, starting out sometime in the first quarter of 2020,” said Kowalik.