Milwaukee Alderman José G. Pérez Not Addressing Toxic Freshwater Lead Lateral Issue In His District

It seems that Alderman Pérez continues to elude questions about the thousands of toxic freshwater laterals including local restaurants in his own district that could gradually be poisoning some families.

By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.

August 25, 2016

Milwaukee, WI – Should Alderman José G. Pérez face a recall election for not taking seriously or responding to questions about the thousands of toxic freshwater home laterals in his own district that could gradually be poisoning some families? Since, it was first exposed by state legislators from the Northside of the city, some aldermen including Pérez have said very little or have not publicly address the issue of lead laterals still connected to many homes in their aldermanic districts. Out of the 15 Aldermanic Districts in the City of Milwaukee, only one is considered without any lead laterals.
One of multiple outspoken critics who have been pushing for the removal of the lead laterals in the city and especially from Milwaukee’s Southside is Robert Miranda, a Lead-free community organizer. According to Miranda, the City wants to only remove part of the lead laterals at their cost, but the other part of the lateral connected to homes, the owners should pay for its replacement, which Miranda says, the City should replace the complete laterals because some home owners might not afford to pay their share to remove the lead laterals.
Miranda has written various letters to Alderman Pérez asking about the 5,585 lead laterals in his district and Miranda shared the latest letter to Alderman Pérez with Hispanic News Network U.S.A. (HNNUSA).

Robert Miranda explaining the Milwaukee freshwater flow toxic lead laterals connected to 70,000 homes in the City. Audio: http://bit.ly/2c3gXG5

August 25, 2016

Alderman Jose G. Perez
12th Aldermanic District
City Hall
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Ref: Partial Lead Service Line Removal: Building Formally Known As La Perla

Dear Alderman Perez:

I have not received a return phone call from you to inform you of this matter. The pictures attached to this communication is of recent construction that was completed at the building formally known as La Perla Restaurant located in your district.

As you know, this building was recently sold by La Perla owners to new owners who are looking to open a new restaurant at this same building. The construction pictured was done by city work crews who informed me that they completed a partial lead pipe removal. Basically, the city removed it’s portion of lead service pipe connecting to the city water main, leaving the lead pipe on the property owners side intact. This is called partial lead service line removal (PLSLR).

I have expressed to you on several occasions that PLSLR is a practice that is proving to be of detriment to the public health.

In fact, Miguel Del Toral, an EPA water specialist in Chicago, expressed frustration with the lack of information and the prevalence of partial pipe replacements, both required and voluntary. Del Toral says that “In some cases they say they (water utilities) notify the residents, but all they do is notify them that their water is going to be cut off while they replace the lines. There is not any kind of educational material to inform them that their lead levels will go up.”

Numerous studies have expanded scientific knowledge of lead pipe corrosion and revealed that PLSLR to be more hazardous than having lead service lines. PLSLR replacements have been shown to have little lead reduction benefit for affected households and restaurants, and they can cause significant increases in lead levels at the tap that can persist for months or years. Other studies have revealed troubling connections between PLSLR replacements and health harms, including elevated blood lead levels and serious health issues.

In 2011, the EPA asked the agency’s Scientific Advisory Board (“SAB”) to examine the available scientific data regarding the effectiveness of partial replacement, instructing the Board to center its inquiry around five issues: associations between partial replacement and blood lead levels in children; water sampling data at the tap before and after partial replacement; comparisons between partial and full LSL replacements; partial replacement techniques; and the impact of galvanic corrosion.

The SAB submitted its findings in a September 2011 report. Regarding those five issues, the SAB found:

1. As evidenced by blood lead levels in affected children, there was “no demonstrable benefit” in having a partial replacement compared to having an intact LSL, and there is “suggestive evidence of potential harm” from partial replacements.

2. Partial replacements often cause significant increases in water lead levels at the tap for “days to weeks, or even several months,” and there is substantial evidence that the physical disturbance partial replacement entails results in the release of lead particles.

3. While full replacement of LSLs is a generally effective means of reducing lead levels in drinking water, “[partial replacements] have not been shown to be reliably effective” in reducing water lead levels.

4. There is a lack of evidence as to which procedures and techniques might make partial replacement more effective.

5. There is strong evidence that galvanic corrosion (described below) associated with partial replacement poses a risk of increased lead levels in tap water.

Overall, the SAB concluded,

Partial pipe replacements can physically shake loose lead fragments that have built up and laid dormant inside the pipe, pushing them into the water, and spiking the lead levels, even where they previously were not high. In addition, the type of partial replacement that joins old lead pipes to new copper ones, using brass fittings, “spurs galvanic corrosion that can dramatically increase the amount of lead released into drinking water supplies,” according to research from Washington University.

In other words, if the owners of this new restaurant on 5th & National open for business as a restaurant, and if they did not remove the lead service line from their side of the property, more likely than not customers of this restaurant will be exposing their family to lead in their food cooked with this water or drinking lead water from the restaurant tap.

Considering these factors my questions to you are:

1. The Milwaukee Department of Public Works and Milwaukee Water Works announced a moratorium on replacing water mains in January of this year because they found that the work was disturbing lead service lines. Why hasn’t your office called for a moratorium on PLSLR in your district?

2. Have you obtained a guarantee from the new owners of the building formally known as La Perla their commitment to remove the rest of the lead service line from their part of the property?

3. Do you have data showing the number of PLSLR being completed in the 12th Aldermanic District over the past five years?

4. Are you aware of other PLSLR work being conducted in your district currently? If there are any, have you conducted precautionary efforts to inform property owners of the potential health dangers PLSLR represent?

Based on the current scientific data, PLSLR have not been shown to reliably reduce drinking water lead levels in the short term, ranging from days to months, and potentially even longer. Additionally, PLSRL is frequently associated with short-term elevated drinking water lead levels for some period of time after replacement, suggesting the potential for harm, rather than benefit during that time period.

In the interest of public health, I look forward to your response.

Regards,
Robert Miranda
Lead-free water community organizer
Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

cc: Rules & Steering Committee

Update: As of 12:32 p.m. on August 25, 2016 just after the HNNUSA article was posted, an email was sent to Robert Miranda by Sandy Rusch Walton, the Communications Manager for the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, Walton wrote, “In response to your question and concern…the property at 734 S. 5th Street, all three of the water service lines servicing the building have been completely replaced – City-owned and privately owned sides.” La Perla building new owners paid to removed three partial lead laterals in the privately owned side, according to Walton.

On Thursday, former Alderman Angel Sánchez released a statement concerning the toxic freshwater lead laterals in the Southside, he questioned why hasn’t the City Health Commissioner began to test adults and children for lead in their system. Sánchez asked, “Why doesn’t the City of Milwaukee Health Department begin testing adults for lead? I continue to remain very concerned about lead in our drinking water and the effects its having on everyone.
The Health Commissioner should respond. Our Alderman (Pérez) has known about this before the election and after, yet remains silent. The public has fallen victim to his sworn oath in placing the people’s interest before his political aspirations.”

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About hispanicnewsnetwork

Nationally, Goodson is a foremost respected immigration rights and reform Journalist in the U.S.A.
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