Health Care

Advocates launch campaign to end lead in Rhode Island’s water forever

“Lead poisoning is a serious children’s health and environmental justice issue,” said Devra Levy, a Community Organizer at the Childhood Lead Action Project. “It’s an injustice that affects hundreds of Rhode Island children every year and is entirely preventable. Our community coalition has spent years learning about lead in water, doing our research into what other cities across the country are doing and what we can do here in Rhode Island. We know that the solution is full, free lead service line replacement.”
Photo for Advocates launch campaign to end lead in Rhode Island’s water forever

Published on September 30, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

Over forty organizations, dozens of elected officials and hundreds of individuals have signed on the the Rhode Island Childhood Lead Action Project‘s campaign to convince state leaders to invest $500m of the state’s ARPA funds (and other sources of federal dollars) to provide “full, free lead service line replacement for all Rhode Islanders.”

This amounts to replacing the lead lines in around 100,000 buildings statewide.

Organizers have composed a letter (see here) and there is still time to sign onto the letter, as an individual, elected official or organization here.

“Lead poisoning is a serious and preventable children’s environmental health issue with lifelong consequences that affects hundreds of Rhode Island children every year,” say organizers in their letter to Governor Daniel McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. “Lead exposure can harm children’s brain development, leading to lifelong learning and behavioral challenges and put adults at higher risk for hypertension and heart disease. In 2020, 631 children (3.2% of children screened) statewide had an elevated blood lead level above the state’s intervention level.[1] In addition to the well-known threat of lead paint in older homes and contaminated soil, contamination of drinking water from an estimated 100,000 remaining lead service lines statewide contributes to these levels.”

“Lead poisoning is a serious children’s health and environmental justice issue,” said Devra Levy, a Community Organizer at the Childhood Lead Action Project. “It’s an injustice that affects hundreds of Rhode Island children every year and is entirely preventable. Our community coalition has spent years learning about lead in water, doing our research into what other cities across the country are doing and what we can do here in Rhode Island. We know that the solution is full, free lead service line replacement.”

“In Rhode Island, over 600 children, or 3.2% of kids tested, had elevated blood lead levels,” said Liz Colón, a parent and advocate who has been personally affected by lead in the water. “All lead poisoning is entirely preventable. We know what to do. Yet we are still in the midst of the longest lasting childhood epidemic in United States history…”

“It’s only expensive if you think it’s not worth doing.”

“I had lead poisoning when I was young, and let me tell you, I stayed sick all the time,” said Terri Wright a Community Organizer at Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE). “Lead poisoning is a serious environmental justice issue and a tenant’s rights issue.”

“This a permanent solution that will address decades of lead exposure and lead poisoning,” said State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence). Though the state offers an interest free loan to replace lead lines, “it is evident that there exists a significant equity gap based on income and zip code when it comes to accessing these loans,” added Representative Morales.

“I have been waiting 20 years for a solution to our lead pipe issue here in Rhode Island,” said State Representative Rebecca Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence). “It’s time, once and for all, to make sure that all of us in Rhode Island have access to safe and healthy water… To say that landlords and homeowners should not be able to make public health decisions for tenants or for the next family to buy and live in a house.”

Devra Levy and Liz Colón read the names of those organizations and elected officials who have signed onto the letter.

Devra Levy
Liz Colón
Terri Wright
David Morales
Rebecca Kislak

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