MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Health Commissioner Bevan Baker spoke at length on Thursday, September 8th about the safety of tap water in the city -- and how residents can ensure they are not being exposed to excessive levels of lead.
Barrett said homes built in the city prior to 1950 contain lead. He said when construction is done in neighborhoods where those home exist, they have found in the past, increases in lead coming from the laterals.
The mayor reiterated information that was stated in a February 2016 mailing to 70,000 households with lead service lines -- steps to make sure their water is safe.
Those include the following four steps:
- Flush your plumbing by running the kitchen faucet on cold for three minutes before using tap water for drinking or cooking until the water stream is noticeably colder. Mayor Barrett said in the news conference that the cost of running the water for about three minutes amounts to about five cents.
- Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Households with residents that include children under the age of six, and pregnant women and breastfeeding women should consider using bottled water or filtered tap water for formula, juices, cooking and drinking.
- Occasionally remove the screen or aerator from a faucet to rinse it out.
- A home filtration system or water filtering pitchers certified to reduce lead can further reduce the possibility of lead entering your drinking water.
"The City of Milwaukee is very transparent on this. We understand what the challenges are. In my budget I'm going to have a plan that I'm going to start developing that will include a timetable to begin replacing lead laterals," Barrett said. "This is something that's going to take a significant amount of time because it's very expensive. But it is going to be the first step that we take through the budget process to help deal with this process."
Health Commissioner Bevan Baker also suggested lead testing for children in the city of Milwaukee.
"We're asking that parents, grandparents, guardians, adoptive parents, really work with pediatricians and public health to get children tested for childhood lead poisoning," Baker said. "Birth to three. We want three before age three. And that would help us identify where there's lead hazards for a child."
Residents are encouraged to seek out information on this issue with the Milwaukee Health Department. CLICK HERE to read through frequently asked questions about lead testing. For further information, you can contact the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 414-286-5987.
IMPORTANT: If someone is interested in purchasing a filter for their home, city officials say they should look for one that is NSF certified under Standard 53. These are available in pitchers, faucet mounted filters, under sink versions, etc. and can be found both at big box stores and online. The key is to look for NSF Standard 53 –- which is certified to remove lead among other materials. CLICK HERE for even more information on lead awareness and drinking water safety.