Leaders focus on lead protection in water system

Posted: 8:36 PM, May 11, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-12 11:05:49-04
Health and utility experts in Green Bay and Brown County are joining forces in an effort to get the lead out of area homes.
Lead is a type of metal that has been used for centuries for its malleable nature, making it easy to use in construction projects, the making of fishing sinkers and bullets, and until 1978, house paint. 
It's also a poisonous neurotoxin to animals and humans, especially children, causing everything from nervous system damage to brain disorders if ingested.
Tonight, experts are focusing on water, and the remaining homes in green bay (fewer than 1,700) that still have lead pipes on the utility's side of the service. They're also targeting neighborhoods with older homes.
But the battle to get the lead out reaches far beyond water, and far beyond Green Bay.
Wednesday nights at the Hmong Center of Green Bay are reserved for the women's group. 
"It's also open to the general public," adds member and interpreter Mary Kong.
This night, they've chosen lead as the topic of discussion.
"The word 'lead,'" says Kong, "there's not a term in the Hmong language that you can [use to] translate it. But you can explain what it is," she adds.
A big part of tonight's discussion is where it might be entering our homes.
Quirk says, from Lake Michigan up to the city water main, there's no lead in the pipes.
But of the 35,000 connections, Quirk says 1700 homes still have a utility-owned lead service line.
"We've done over 100 [homes] So far, since January 1st of this year," says Quirk, "continuing to do 2-3 a day, as we can." 
But everything from cheap toys, to decades-old paint chips, can contain lead.
"There's about 50% of the stock of Green Bay that does have older homes, and we want to make sure that they are safe," says Kathy Janssen, public health nurse for the Brown Co. Health Dept. Lead Prevention program, "and that their children are safe." 
While there's a lot to consider for someone who may have lead in his or her home, Kong says tonight's discussion will help many families find help.
"There's people out there to find the resources to help them," smiles Kong.
Experts say lead poisoning is very preventable with pro-active measures.
Tonight was the first of a series of public events aiming to get the lead out in Brown County.
The next one is this Saturday at 9 a.m., at the Neville Public Museum. There's also one on Thursday, at 5:30 p.m. on May 19th at St. Willebrord Parish, where a Spanish interpreter will be present.
There are a number of ways to check your home for lead.
But experts urge that you know all the health risks, and state-mandated safety requirements, before trying to remove lead contaminants.
For that, you can reach the Brown Co. Health Dept. here, or by calling 920-448-6400.
You can also contact the Green Bay Water Utility here, or by calling (920)-448-3480