Milwaukee officials on Wednesday called on elected leaders in nearby places and the state Legislature to follow the city’s lead on a number of clean-water initiatives, including a recently passed ban on the use of coal-tar sealants on parking lots and driveways.
A pair of alderman joined local environmental advocates at City Hall on Wednesday to call attention to various conditions affecting the quality of the city’s streams and drinking water. Specifically, the group responded to concerns that other elected officials, namely state lawmakers in Madison, were not doing enough to improve the quality of water in the state.
“Unfortunately, we see a lot of realities not being addressed at the level where it should be, and it has otherwise required local municipalities — whether it be entities like the city of Milwaukee, whether it be the county, or whether it be the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District — to pick up the slack,” Alderman Jim Bohl said. ” … The reality is, we are succeeding on a number of those fronts, but we do need help.”
For one, Bohl mentioned that Milwaukee recently placed itself among only a few government entities in the state that ban the use of coal-tar sealants. The material, which is sprayed or painted onto asphalt parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to protect the underlying asphalt and improve its appearance, contains high levels of a carcinogen named polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as PAHs.
Milwaukee Common Council officials moved to ban the substance shortly after scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey published a study finding that most of the PAHs in Milwaukee streambed sediments come from runoff from pavements that were patched with coal-tar sealants.
Milwaukee officials were not the first in the state to take this step. Dane County banned the use of coal-tar sealants in 2007, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has since the 1970s specifically called for the use of asphalt-based sealants on state projects.
Replacing lead service lines has also been a high priority for the city in recent months. Common Council members last year approved a new policy to replace the roughly 70,000 lead pipes that are still being used by private residents and businesses in the city. The new policy requires property owners to replace the parts of lead service lines running under their own properties any time the city replaces its side.
Bohl said Milwaukee cannot make enough of a difference on its own. Again, he encouraged the state Legislature to pitch in.
“We need that leadership coming from Madison,” he said.
The city can hope for some help on efforts to replace lead service lines. State lawmakers are currently pushing a bill that would let utility companies raise rates to help customers replace dangerous lead service lines.Follow @alexzank