MILWAUKEE — Members of the Biden administration traveled to Wisconsin to show how the bipartisan infrastructure bill supports the removal of lead pipes in Milwaukee.
Deanna Branch said she never knew how damaging lead pipes could be until it affected her children.
“He got lead poisoning when he was two years old and he’s nine now, so I’ve been battling that issue for years,” Branch said. “We’re at the point now where I feel like something is finally done, so it’s a very 360 moment for me.”
After her two children were poisoned with lead, she became a member of the Lead Emergency Coalition.
She now campaigns for a lead safe city.
“There is no safe level of lead in the blood for a child. The fact that there’s an issue where I feel like my kids aren’t drinking clean water,” Branch said. “I don’t know what can get worse than not having clean water or not feeling like your kids are safe when they drink the water from the sink.”
The bipartisan infrastructure bill sent $48 million to Wisconsin for lead pipe removal.
Milwaukee alone has 40% of the lead pipes in the state.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore believes their removal is an important milestone for the city because 9% of Milwaukee children have suffered from lead poisoning.
“It’s one in 10 kids in the city who’s been poisoned by lead, if it’s not lead in the water then it’s lead paint because a lot of our old homes and these lead pipes,” Moore said. “This bill was not passed a minute too soon.”
Mayor Cavalier Johnson also sees the investment as a boost to the local economy.
“Every service line replacement requires a team of people. It’s a mix of low-skilled and high-skilled positions,” he said. “This additional funding means local entrepreneurs can expand and fill more of these positions, all of which are well-paying and family support jobs that we need more of in this city.”
Mitch Landrieu, President Joe Biden’s senior adviser, believes eliminating lead pipes is vital for the next generation.
“When we think about it and put our shoulders to the wheel, we can really do great things because we are more than 330 million of us and part of this mosaic that we call the United States of America that we all need each other and that starts with our children,” Landrieu said.
Seeing the teams remove those pipes reminds Branch why she insisted on it.
“Being shy, not talking and feeling bad about what happened, that got me nowhere. We have to stand up,” Branch said. “We have to use our voices to make sure that something happens to prevent this from happening to other families.”
Branch said his children have recovered from their lead poisoning.
She now looks forward to seeing the federal government continue to support the city in this work.