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"We are not negligent:" Health Department defends response to lead crisis

NOW: “We are not negligent:“ Health Department defends response to lead crisis

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- In a special meeting of the Public Health and Safety Committee Friday, the Milwaukee Health Department defended its response to the lead crisis.

“We are at a point where we’ve got to get some answers,” Alderman Robert Donovan, Chair of the Committee, said.

The Freshwater for Life Action Coalition brought up their concerns including what they say is a possible connection between infant deaths and lead poisoning and a change in a city map that shows lead poisonings.

“The public may not be getting the full understanding and may go back to their home thinking they don’t need a filter,” Thomas Wazenback, Get the Lead Out Coalition Member, said.

In response, the Health Department says they changed the map because of HIPPA laws and that the coalition was reading data on infant deaths incorrectly.

“This is really an incorrect understanding of density maps,” Dr. Geoffrey Swain with the Milwaukee Health Department, said.

The Health Department also drove home the point that water is not the only source of lead in Milwaukee but also found in paint, soil, and dust.

“We are doing what we are supposed to do and we are not negligent,” Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee Health Department Commissioner said.

Members of the Committee also grilled the Health Department on what steps are actively being taken to reduce the number of kids with lead poisoning in Milwaukee.

“Do we know which Milwaukee youth under the age of 6 is at risk and what are we specifically doing about this?” Alderman Mark Borkowski asked the Health Commissioner who responded with mention of a plan for home visits and street canvassing along with water filter distribution.

“We do have a game plan,” Commissioner Kowalik said.

Borkowski asked that at a future meeting the Health Department provide specifics on their plan to attack the lead issue.

Donovan also brought up the need for a possible audit to truly get to the bottom of the lead issues.

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