It’s been over 23 years since tens of thousands of people in the Milwaukee area experienced an epidemic that caused many people to become sick and force the City of Milwaukee to change how the city treats its water.

Over 23 years since many residents experienced the spread of cryptosporidium, an invisible parasite that was able to get into Milwaukee’s water supply infecting people and causing some to die. It was the largest epidemic of documented waterborne disease in U.S. history.

527981_3727110255100_1624800471_nTo fight back against the parasite Milwaukee officials called upon the public to boil the water to prevent the spread of the cryptosporidium epidemic.

As city leaders were calling on all citizens to boil the water, another devastating threat to our health was lying silently in the dark, underground passing on water through a toxic pipe made of lead and poisoning our community. LEAD.

Toxic lead pipes operating during the cryptosporidium crisis in our community, provided the water which passed on cryptosporidium that sickened many Milwaukee residents. The City of Milwaukee recommendation to boil the water to kill the parasite may have poisoned tens of thousands of children who drank water that was boiled which may have been contaminated with lead or ate food cooked with water that was contaminated with lead.

Boiling water with lead is much more hazardous to your health, because some of the water evaporates during the boiling process, the lead concentration of the water can actually increase as the water is boiled. Many restaurants and homes boiled their water exposing many families and restaurant clients to higher concentrations of lead in their food or drinking water.

There is currently no research or documentation showing what lead water boiled during the cryptosporidium outbreak might have done to our community, but there are plenty of studies that link water coming from lead pipes is not safe to drink and other studies that link lead water pipes as a contributing factor in violent behavior and learning issues in children.

The city spent almost $90 million from 1994 to 1998 to upgrade its two water filtration plants to prevent another outbreak; but what the City of Milwaukee did not do was address the issue of lead service lines or lead lateral pipes. Instead, the City of Milwaukee decided to treat the water with a phosphate designed to provide a protective coating in the lead lateral pipes to prevent lead from leaching into the drinking water. A practice that does not guarantee 100% safe drinking water coming from lead pipes.

23 years later our community may be feeling the aftermath of the cryptosporidium crisis.

By boiling the water to destroy a threat to our health years ago, we may have damaged many children under 6 years old who today are grown young adults who have dropped out of school because of learning issues or are incarcerated because of their inability to reason thus are quick to act out violently; all indications of lead poisoning.

Instead of getting to the root of increased crime and violence in our community, the City of Milwaukee recently pushed for a plan to increase police presence on our streets and send young offenders to boot camp instead of looking at the possibility that the young adults of today might need treatment. The children during the 1990s drinking boiled lead contaminated water have become young adults today who may have been affected and suffer under the shadow of cryptosporidium.


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Community Reporter

Lawrence is a small business owner, Marquette University graduate, and community reporter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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