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Gov. Evers creates new position to tackle lead in water issue: ‘We have to get it done for our kids’

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KENOSHA -- It's a top spot no county wants. Milwaukee County leads the list of counties with lead service lines. But seemingly, lead poisoning has become a statewide issue with a child in every county affected.

On Monday, July 29, Gov. Tony Evers created a new position in state government to coordinate the state's efforts at combatting lead in drinking water. He signed an executive order in Kenosha creating the position within the state Department of Health Services.

"It's our hope to get it done. We have to get it done for our kids," Gov. Evers said.

With one in 13 Wisconsin children testing for dangerous levels of lead exposure, Gov. Evers said he is determined to eliminate lead from the state's drinking water. The recently passed state budget has just over $32 million for improving water quality.

Governor Tony Evers

"These investments are important. But they do not go far enough to address the serious issues impacting our communities," Evers said.

With the stroke of a pen, Executive Order 36 officially went into effect.

"Having an all-hands-on-deck effort by all of the agencies not only gets some person power behind it, but also helps us look for resources," Evers said.

Order 36 will create a position within the Department of Health Services to serve as the coordinator of the state's efforts to address the lead crisis.

Governor Tony Evers

Jeanne Ayers

"Working together, we can accelerate and strengthen our collective efforts to eliminate lead poisoning through testing and abatement of the lead hazards in our homes and removal of leaded aware pipes in our services lines," said Jeanne Ayers, Department of Health Services.

Supporters say there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

"With nearly 176,000 lead laterals in the State of Wisconsin, it will be a heavy lift," said Preston Cole, Department of Natural Resources Secretary-designee.

But it is one they say they are willing to do for the health of our future.

"There is a direct correlation with lead in the water, kids drinking it and their ability to learn and succeed as adults," Evers said.

The governor also said he is taking it a step further and working with his fellow Great Lakes governors in calling for federal action to invest and improve our water infrastructure.

No one was immediately named to this new post.

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