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Governor Evers creates "lead czar" position to combat "crisis"

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Gov. Tony Evers says the statewide lead crisis poses a serious danger to Wisconsin children.

“Lead poisoned children exist in every county in Wisconsin,” Evers said.

Evers signed an executive order Monday to create one person, who Evers dubbed a "lead czar," to oversee a coordinated statewide effort to curb lead contamination.

Milwaukee County does have the most lead service lines. It’s followed by Racine, Manitowoc, Kenosha and Marathon counties.

Lt. Governor Mandella Barnes says government needs to do a better job helping counties outside of Milwaukee.

“It’s about resources, and there are just more voices in Milwaukee county," Barnes said. "It’s a population issue, not a concern issue.”

There are 130 Wisconsin villages or cities with a combined 176,000 lead service lines.

The Wisconsin Department of Health services says the problem will be easier to solve if all those cities efforts are under one umbrella.

"Having extra resources, and identifying someone who’s responsible for coordinating how we address lead poisoning in Wisconsin, I think is a great idea,” Mark Warner with DHS said.

Wisconsin has one of the ten highest rates of children with lead poisoning in the country. DNR secretary Preston Cole says he often sees more effort to get lead out of natural waters.

"Our children deserve to be treated much like the fishes in Lake Michigan.”

The executive order signed today has no dollars attached.

The legislature rejected Evers' $40 million proposal to replace some lead service lines in the state.

“If we can’t convince our own Wisconsin legislature, hopefully we can convince our congresspeople in DC that we need more resources.”

The Evers administration can use some of the $32 million in his clean water initiative fund to combat the lead crisis.

Evers did not name the lead czar Monday.

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