Mayor Selects Health Commissioner, FLAC Calls For Subpoenas of Former City Officials

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has chosen a new commissioner for the city’s scandal-plagued health department.

Barrett’s pick is Jeanette Kowalik, who currently works in Washington and is a former Milwaukee Health Department staffer. Kowalik would need to win Common Council approval.

Meanwhile, activist Robert Miranda provided FOX6 News with an April 2015 email chain between Baker and former disease control and environmental health director Paul Biedrzycki.

Biedrzycki wrote a memo to Baker that outlined his concerns about the city’s program to repair old lead lateral lines. He said studies in other cities showed that disturbing the pipes “resulted in significant increases in lead concentrations in drinking water” which “can persist for months and years.”

Baker responded in an email that same day, April 1.

“Thanks for your follow up and executive summary. I appreciate both. I will debrief you after my meeting with the mayor,” Baker said.

Freshwater for Life Action Coalition (FLAC) spokesperson Robert Miranda is calling on the Milwaukee Common Council to subpoena Baker, Biedrzycki, and three other former officials to find answers.

“We just want to know from Bevan Baker, what’s the truth here?” Miranda said.

Miranda states that a source provided him with information of internal emails, memos and reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Drinking Water Advisory Council in addition to other agencies.

Miranda said that included in the pages of information are emails between health department officials, water works officials and staff of the mayor’s office.

“From the information we have read there is more to what was initially reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) in its January 2018 article reporting on warnings staff at the Mayor’s office were alerted to by Milwaukee health officials regarding a pilot water main repair/removal pilot project conducted under the supervision of former Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) Superintendent, Carrie Lewis”, said Miranda.

“The haphazard manner in which this dangerous pilot project was handled leaves no doubt that our community was not only at risk, but that also participants of the pilot were abandoned to fend for themselves after they were alerted that the project was suspended due to increased lead levels in their water”, continued Miranda.

FLAC wants to know if an environmental assessment was conducted before the pilot was implemented and if not why not. FLAC also wants to know if members of the community were used in an experiment as guinea pigs.

“We also want to know if the Common Council was informed of the magnitude of the risk for implementing this pilot project and if during the pilot project was MHD consulted before it became evident that the warnings given to MWW were realized forcing the suspension of the pilot project in late 2015”, Miranda said.

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