Lead paint, pipes, and progress in Milwaukee

Episode 15, 2/12/24

Lead paint, pipes, and progress in Milwaukee

How does lead contamination affect Great Lakes communities, especially marginalized ones? In this episode, Bonnie and guest host Dr. Deidre Peroff explore the impact of lead contamination in Milwaukee.

At Milwaukee’s Sixteenth Street Health Center, we meet Alejandra, who goes door to door doing lead outreach and education on Milwaukee’s south side. Milwaukee’s north and south sides, largely Black and Hispanic respectively, are disproportionately affected by childhood lead poisoning. In Wisconsin, Black children are four times more likely than white children to get lead poisoned.

Lead poisoning can be caused by lead paint lingering in old houses. It can also be caused by lead pipes, known as lead laterals, that bring water into individual homes and businesses. It’s estimated that Milwaukee still has 66,000 lead laterals in the ground. Sixteenth Street’s Jamie Ferschinger and Dr. Molly Cousin share ways we can protect families from exposure to lead.

Replacing lead pipes is expensive – too expensive for cities and towns to replace them quickly without financial assistance. Recent legislation in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes a historic amount of money earmarked for lead pipe remediation. Andrian Lee and Melissa Scanlan, from UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, help us understand the significance of the law, and if the money will actually be making it to the communities who need it most.


Smiling woman standing in front of a lake.

Bonnie Willison | Host

Video Producer

What I do at Sea Grant

As the videographer and digital storyteller, Bonnie uses her video and animation skills to showcase the stories of Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Hali Jama | Host, Season One

Student Podcast Producer

My time at Sea Grant

Hali brought her background in social justice, business and marketing to Wisconsin Sea Grant during her 2021-2022 internship. She co-produced and co-hosted season one of The Water We Swim In.