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State Lawmaker Proposes Stricter Water Testing Standards In Wisconsin

Bill Would Lower Lead Threshold To Trigger Testing

glass of water
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In the wake of lead contamination problems in Flint, Michigan’s water supply, a Wisconsin state lawmaker is calling for stricter guidelines for testing residential water pipes in the Badger State.

State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said her bill would lower the threshold for triggering an investigation to insure lead levels aren’t threatening children’s health. Under current law, an investigation is required if a blood test finds a child under 6 years of age has 15 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter. Taylor’s measure would lower that to 5 micrograms, the new standard set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We require three times the poisoning of children before there’s a requirement that the environment be looked at by (state Department of Health Services). I mean that’s serious, serious lead contamination,” said Taylor.

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Taylor said she decided to draft the bill after reading a report on lead in Wisconsin drinking water published last month by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The report cites a 2014 study that found almost 4,000 Wisconsin children with lead levels of 5 micrograms or more.

Taylor said she expects the additional testing to cost $500,000. Currently, the blood tests triggering an investigation require testing for lead in the air or dust or soil that may have come from lead paint. This bill would add a requirement to test the water and the water pipes in the house where the child lives.

Gov. Scott Walker has asked the Legislature to cap additional spending this year at $20 million. That means there might be opposition to spending another $500,000 for additional lead testing. But Taylor said protecting the health of children should be a bipartisan priority. She said the lead poisoning levels found in the 2014 study affect children in both Democratic and Republican districts.

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified the media outlet behind a report on lead contamination as the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Reporting. The outlet is actually the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.