Advocates are talking about replacing Milwaukee’s basics

WASHINGTON, DC – Richard Diaz, chairman of the Coalition for Lead Emergency (COLE), said Milwaukee evidence shows that lead exposure poisoning is also a matter of social justice.


What You Need to Know

  • Five years ago, Milwaukee Water Works began work to reduce the targeting of nearly 70,000 lead service lines
  • Replacing a line costs about $ 11,000, so it will cost about $ 800 million to completely replace all Milwaukee lead pipes.
  • The bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by President Joe Biden in November allocated $ 142 million to address lead problems in Wisconsin

“The areas [with high levels of lead exposure] “They are the same ones who faced discrimination for housing,” Diaz said. “You know, neighborhoods that had a red line, they were in a box, so you could not move from there. “You’re not going to get a loan to move anywhere in the city in the 1930s, so in the same areas.”

Diaz started advocacy work through the organization years ago by providing water filters, information and other resources to families at the center of the city’s main crisis. Their work also goes beyond family education.

“We are a voluntary base, a base effort,” Diaz said. “We are also working to find jobs in the field of lead reduction. “And most importantly, trying to promote policies that make lawmakers act on the pandemic of lead poisoning that has passed a century.”

The team also has an interest in the city’s efforts to remove lead pipes from homes.

“How can we eliminate the cost share for property owners replacing the main service line?” said Diaz.

Five years ago, Milwaukee Water Works began work to reduce the targeting of nearly 70,000 top service lines.

“From not replacing service lead findings to replacing around 1,000 a year, we feel we have done enough and laid the groundwork for the utility to increase this replacement rate associated with funding this new infrastructure structure. Pat Pauly, managing director and interim inspector of Milwaukee Water Works said.

Pauly said replacing a line costs about $ 11,000. It will cost almost $ 800 million to completely replace all the lead lines.

“We have to be creative and do things like achieve Back Build Better, which has an extra $ 10 billion,” Diaz said. “We need to raise dollars from the state and county and city dollars so that we can eliminate the cost share for those who need it most.”

Gwen Moore’s spokeswoman D-Milwaukee has been pushing for more federal aid since she was elected to Congress.

“At the pace that [Milwaukee] replaces the lead bulbs, it will take 70 years to replace them. “ said MP Moore. “So it made a really big difference that we passed this bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

The bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, signed by President Joe Biden in November, includes $ 15 billion over five years for nationwide lead service line replacement projects through the EPA’s State Drinking Water Fund (EPA). . $ 142 million of the bill will go to Wisconsin to address lead problems. Pauly said $ 48 million of that has been allocated for this fiscal year.

“We do not know what [Milwaukee’s] “It will be distributed,” Pauly said. “That is why we are anxiously awaiting the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to agree on certain rules and guidelines sometime later this year.”

Richard Diaz speaks fictitiously during US House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in March

These rules have posed challenges for the city in terms of using certain federal funds for its efforts. The Wisconsin DNR offers lower interest rates and capital forgiveness on some loans to replace lead lines through its Disadvantaged Communities Program. To access these resources, local government units must meet the criteria of average household and population size. The latter excludes Milwaukee.

Diaz said he would meet with DNR representatives soon to discuss how restrictive the current standard is.

“Community teams like us will work with entities like the EPA and the DNR to be able to put those criteria that put disadvantaged communities at a disadvantage, you know, at the top of the line,” he said.

Pauly said that while not eligible, the Wisconsin DNR is working with the city to access some of these benefits.

“Going forward, the DNR is well aware of the situation with the definition of a disadvantaged community and I know it is in my mind how to better allocate these resources to make sure they reach the right communities,” he said.

If that does not change, Milwaukee may not be eligible for even more federal funding. Biden has allocated more than $ 180 million for lead pipe replacement programs in his proposed EPA federal budget next year. In March, the EPA released a memorandum of implementation for the extra money reduction lead contained in the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, calling for increased investment in disadvantaged communities and the provision of flexibility to meet local water needs.

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