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'We are long overdue to get this done': VP Kamala Harris pushes for the replacement of lead pipes in Milwaukee

Kamala Harris, Douglas Emhoff
Posted at 5:35 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 18:23:46-05

MILWAUKEE — Do you need a drinking water filter? Find out here.

It's an issue that's plagued Wisconsin, including the city of Milwaukee for years. The tens of thousands of service pipelines that connect to homes, schools, and more, are filled with lead.

"This is an issue that we should, as a nation, commit to ending. In Wisconsin, as it's been said, lead service lines, it is estimated, are in at least 170,000 homes, schools, and businesses," said Vice President Kamala Harris.

Harris promoted the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law Monday during her Milwaukee stop. That plan will bring at least $255 million to Wisconsin to replace lead pipes over the next five years. She was joined by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

"It's a big day for our issue. Our common cause," said Derek Beyer, a steering committee member for the Get the Lead Out Coalition.

According to the State Department of Administration, 40% of all lead services lines in the state are in Milwaukee. The city says there are at least 70,000 connected to homes here, and it impacts communities of color the hardest.

"Black and brown communities in the city without a doubt, that's according to data, are disproportionately affected by it," said Beyer.

The Environmental Protection Agency says black children living at or below the poverty level in the U.S. are four times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

City officials say removing all lead service lines will cost more than $750 million and take years to complete.

However, advocates say money from the federal government is at least the start of a solution years in the making.

"We still need to get them out of the ground. That's the end measure of success for our groups," said Beyer.

"Generations of Americans will forever benefit because of the work that is happening right here in Milwaukee. We are long overdue to get this done," said Harris.

The city of Milwaukee offers free drinking water filter starter kits to homes with lead service lines and young children in the home. For information on how to get one, click here.

Harris also met with community and health leaders at the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP program in west Milwaukee. She also met with union workers who are working to replace lead pipes.

At the same time, Emhoff visited a performing arts center where the White House says he heard how two Milwaukee youth organizations benefited from federal COVID-19 relief grants, and then he spoke with leaders from Milwaukee’s Jewish community.

Harris' first visit to Milwaukee as Vice President happened in May of 2021, when she touted clean energy research and President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

She also made campaign stops in Wisconsin during the presidential election.

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