According to the Department of Health Services, since 1996 more than 200,000 children in Wisconsin have been identified as having dangerous lead levels in their body. Jeanne Ayers, the state health officer and administrator of the Division of Public Health at the DHS, observed that childhood lead poisoning “still affects 4,000 children each year.”
“The good news is that lead exposure can obviously be prevented,” Evers said. “The bad news is that the legislature did not do well enough in the budget to fund our effort to tackle this crisis. Since the legislature failed to properly fund this effort, I’ll do everything within my power as governor to protect Wisconsin’s children.”
Evers also said he would support a stand-alone bill now being circulated to gain cosponsors that would using bonding authority to enable up to $40 million in loans to private property owners to help pay for replacing lead service lines — the same amount of money that Republican legislators cut from Evers’ budget for the same purpose.
The measure, authored by Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), would require that the additional funds be allocated to cover forgivable loans to private users of public water systems, paying for up to half the cost of replacing lead service lines.
“I support that,” Evers replied. “I encourage the people of Wisconsin to let our legislators know that the time is now.”
Kenosha is among the top five Wisconsin cities for lead exposure, said Lt. Gov. Barnes.