MILWAUKEE -- Advocates for clean drinking water in Milwaukee are releasing newly obtained records related to the city's lead issue. The group, Freshwater for Life Action Coalition, has been after the documents for some time and at one point even threatened to sue the city for them. Now that they have them, they are questioning if all of them were turned over.
"I believe we are missing some documents," said Robert Miranda, Freshwater for Life Action Coalition spokesperson.
Aside from the city's ongoing lead lateral replacement initiatives, the public was informed in late January, of deficiencies in the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Federal officials placed a stop work order on the program in February.
The group says sources in City Hall informed them of accountability in management meetings involving Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The group requested records of those meetings with the intention of finding out what Mayor Barrett knew about the lead program troubles and when.
"He is presented information from various departments through slides and every bit that's going on at the health department," said Miranda.
The records are from January of 2015, to December of 2017.
The group is disturbed by what they say are significant gaps between important meetings. They now believe the mayor's office did not comply with providing all the records requested.
"In 2015, these meetings were being held regularly...it wasn't until 2016, where we saw the first problem and the first one being that after a meeting in June, they didn't met for eight months after," said Miranda.
In response, Mayor Barrett's office said:
“FLAC and its spokesman appear to be more interested in getting themselves media attention than addressing lead paint, the primary cause of lead poisoning and the millions of dollars in costs Milwaukee taxpayers will bear for lead remediation.
“If FLAC is so concerned about lead laterals, why isn’t the group expending time and energy in Madison and Washington D.C. lobbying the legislature, Governor and members of Congress to fund the estimated $750 million Milwaukee needs to fully replace 70,000 lead laterals?
“Does FLAC have the stomach for such a campaign, would that be too tough a task? It could very well be FLAC‘s plan is to have Milwaukee homeowners and taxpayers foot the bill in its entirety.
“That’s the strategy being used by the paint industry and their lawyers and, from all appearances, that’s the strategy FLAC is employing.
“Maybe it’s time for FLAC to be fully transparent and let the public know - just who funds FLAC?”
The group plans on writing a letter to the mayor, demanding an explanation as to why there are such wide gaps between the important meetings.