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CBS 58 Investigates: Problems with Milwaukee's Lead Prevention Program

CBS 58 Investigates: Problems with Milwaukee’s Lead Prevention Program

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)-- The Milwaukee Health Commissioner is out after a scandal within the department.

The city says thousands of children tested for elevated lead levels and their families may not know it.

This isn't the first time we've seen inconsistencies with what the city's childhood lead poisoning prevention program says it's going to do and what it actually does.

In May of 2017, Benjamin James, the then head of the city's lead prevention program told CBS 58 after learning 70,000 Milwaukee homes have lead service lines, the Health Department would start testing water in homes of kids with lead poisoning.

"As recent events have unfolded and resources have become available, water testing is being added to investigations," Benjamin James said.

Except that didn't happen.

In November of 2017, Sarah DeRoo, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the city offers those families filters, not water testing. She also said, "the funds that would be spent on testing are better put towards filters."

In December, after leaving the health department, James emailed the mayor and all the aldermen, concerned with how the lead program operates and specifically that the city isn't testing water for lead in homes where kids have lead poisoning.

Bevan Baker responded that same day telling aldermen, "With regard to the program management concerns, please know that I have taken immediate action regarding the issues referenced in the correspondence."

On Friday, CBS 58 News asked Mayor Barrett about the issue of testing the water.

"My understanding again, this was brought to my attention this week, what we're talking about here, earlier this week is when I learned about this. And for me, the real trigger was finding out that those letters that were being sent out did not necessarily go to everyone." 

The Mayor did not directly answer the question about water testing, and he would not say if other health department officials will be fired as a result of these issues.

Stay with CBS 58 News for more information on this developing story.

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