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CBS 58 Investigates: One Year Later, Daycares Waiting for Lead Service Line Replacements

CBS 58-- As the City of Milwaukee works to uncover why the childhood lead prevention program failed some kids, there are concerns from city leaders and community members that plans to replace lead lines at daycares are moving slowly.

In September of 2016 CBS 58 spoke to Milwaukee daycares with lead laterals. At that time, the Mayor's budget proposed spending millions to replace those lines. CBS 58 Investigates went back to those daycares to see if, more than a year later, those lines were replaced.

“We will use $5.2 million in 2016 and 2017 to remove lead lines at 385 licensed daycare facilities,” said Mayor Barrett in the Fall of 2016.

In December of 2016, the city passed a budget that included funding the replacement of lead lines at all Milwaukee daycares.

“When we spoke a year ago, you got a letter saying there are lead laterals. Have you heard anything since then?” CBS 58 asked the owner of a Northside daycare, who does not want to be named.

“No I haven't,” the daycare owner said.

The owner says she's frustrated.

“It makes me feel bad because being a daycare, I have to buy cases and cases of bottled water,” the owner said.

Over at Cady's Kids, where children only drink filtered water, the owner says a few months ago the city had her sign an agreement to get the lead laterals replaced but it hasn't happened yet.

These two day cares are just a couple of the hundreds still waiting for new service lines, the exact numbers, though, aren't clear.

In January, both the Milwaukee Health Department and Milwaukee Water Works presented updates to Common Council committees.

The health department says of the 360 licensed daycares with lead lines, 146 have been replaced, 110 are scheduled and 104 did not respond to initial outreach.

Milwaukee Water works says there are 385 daycares. 144 have had lead laterals replaced, about 100 have given consent to have lines replaced, and they still are trying to reach 140.

CBS 58 Investigates asked the Health Department why their numbers are different than Milwaukee Water Works. We're still waiting for an answer.

Jennifer Gonda, the water superintendent, says lead lateral replacements at daycares that have consented, like Caddy’s Kids, will start up again when the ground thaws.

“We’re going to award a contract to do those as a package starting in March,” Gonda told the Public Works Committee in January.

Aldermen questioned why the city isn't in contact with some 100 plus daycares.

“What are we doing in incentivize or compel childcare providers to replace the lead laterals?” asked Ald. Michael Murphy at the Public Works meeting.

Officials with Milwaukee Water Works say it's the daycares that aren't responsive and they're consulting with the city attorney to see what can be done to force daycares to consent to new lines.

“One of the reasons is we haven't been receiving a lot of favorable response is because of the disruption to businesses,” Ghassan  Korban, commissioner of the Department of Public Works, told the Public Works Committee.

But the owner of the Northside daycare says it's not that she doesn't want new lines, it's that the city isn't making an effort.

“I've tried a couple times to call down there, but kinda get the the run around,” she said. “But I'm hoping after everything's been exposed, recently on the news, that they will take the initiative to start contacting people and correct the problem.”

Milwaukee Water works says since January of 2016-- they've distributed 1435 water filters. The owner of that Northside daycare, says she never got one.

UPDATE: CBS received a response from the Milwaukee Health Department two days after the story aired. Sarah DeRoo, a spokeswoman for the department. now says there are 329 total licensed daycares with lead service lines. Of those, 146 have had complete service line replacements, 126 have appointments to coordinate replacement. DeRoo says "the total number remaining for appointments is 57 (44 of those we have 

"The sign-off for replacement must come from the property owner," DeRoo said. "The person who operates the day care may or may not be the property owner. In our difficult-to-reach cases, we may be in touch with the day care provider, but cannot get a response from the actual property owner… or other varying issues that change by property. In addition, the MHD mailed letters to all licensed facilities offering water filters this past fall, and we also held pick-up days at one of our health centers for filters. We continue to reach out to facilities."

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