It’s a shocking statistic: nearly 80% of Missouri children have detectable levels of lead in their blood. Elevated levels can cause irreversible harm to chidlren’s mental and physical development, and economically disadvantaged and minority children are most likely to suffer from elevated levels.
In 2020, when Madeline Semanisin (formerly Middlebrooks) joined Great Rivers as an Equal Justice Works fellow, most schools in Missouri were not required to test their water for lead, and even fewer were required to remediate high lead levels.
Madeline dedicated her efforts to addressing the disparity in elevated blood lead levels and to protect all children from the risks of exposure. In 2020, she researched state policies and met with stakeholders from all backgrounds. 2021 found her forming the Missouri Filter First Community Coalition with groups across the state. In the 2022 legislative session, she devoted countless hours to leading the coalition, researching policy, creating educational packets, drafting legislation, meeting with legislators, and testifying in front of legislative committees.
With the passage of the GET LEAD OUT OF DRINKING WATER ACT on July 1, 2022, Madeline’s work bore tremendous fruit. The bill requires any public school, private school, or provider of an early childhood education program that receives state funding to test for lead in their institution’s drinking water fixtures and to install filters to remediate those sources that are compromised.
The bill’s passing is a monumental victory for children’s health across the state.
Great Rivers is grateful to Madeline for her work, to Faber Daefur & Itrato for their sponsorship of her fellowship, and to the countless community partners who helped to make this progress possible.
Rivers Environmental Law Center is a Missouri-based public interest law firm that provides free and reduced-fee services to individuals, organizations and citizen groups working to protect the environment and public health. We receive no government funding and rely on donations to sustain our work.