Susan Bence

Environmental Reporter

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.

Susan is now WUWM's environmental reporter, the station's first. Her work has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Susan worked with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin for 20 years, studied foreign languages at UWM, and loves to travel.

Ways to Connect

SIDDHARTHA ROY / FLINTWATERSTUDY.ORG

Milwaukee is grappling with the cost and time needed to replace approximately 70,000 lead service lines scattered around the city.

Lead is a heavy metal neurotoxin that causes severe health problems in those exposed to it, especially children.

William Kort decided to try to contribute to the solution.

Kort is an adjunct instructor with the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and put together a class called Public Water Provision in Milwaukee – Lead and Other Issues.

Landscapes of Space, LLC

Tuesday night, Wauwatosa’s common council reviewed a development plan for a huge swath of the city's side south. The draft, called the Wauwatosa Life Sciences District Master Plan, lays out businesses and residential development, as well as tending to traffic congestion.

But residents who filled the gallery seats and lined its walls seemed focused on one small section of the plan.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Habitat for Humanity is known for partnering with Milwaukee families to build or improve the places they call home. A few years ago, volunteers created a program to help fund those homes - a deconstruction crew.

Quorum Architects and Ayres Associates

Update: 

Quorum Architects - Ayres Associates has been named winner of Harbor District, Inc.'s Take Me to the River Design Competition.

According to the selection committee, Quorum's Slosh Park project was selected for its "elements that would make for an interesting and engaging space" as well as for "most effectively balanc[ing] several [of the project's] goals."

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Waukesha reports that it is in full steam ahead mode with plans to deliver Lake Michigan water to its residents. At the meantime, a consortium of U.S. and Canadian mayors, the Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative, are fighting to halt the project.

While the Compact Council already cast its unanimous support in favor of Waukesha last summer, the body will listen to both sides in the next month or so.

Morguefile

Wintry weather can mean slippery sidewalks and driveways. The Soil Science Society of America urges people to use salt sparingly, as too much can have long-term effects on soil.

"Soils that contain too much sodium are unable to effectively retain important plant nutrients,” says Mary Tiedeman, a soil microbiology PhD student who recently blogged on the topic.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Aldo Leopold’s 1949 book A Sand County Almanac fueled the conservation movement. Estella Leopold, a vibrant nearly nonagenarian, was the youngest of five Leopolds. She grew up happily oblivious of her father’s fame.

Aldo was teaching at UW-Madison in the 1930s, when he bought a shack – quite literally, a ramshackle small barn – fifty miles to the north on what was exhausted farmland.

Estella loved the land.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Environmental issues were plentiful this year.  From Waukesha water to a retooled DNR, WUWM looks at a few that will continue to vertebrate in 2017.

Waukesha Water

Waukesha has to replace its well water because it’s tainted with radium. The city built its solution around a daily allotment of about ten million gallons of water from Lake Michigan, and that meant winning permission from the states that border the lake, because Waukesha sits outside its basin.

SIDDHARTHA ROY / FLINTWATERSTUDY.ORG

While the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, got most of the headlines in the last year, other issues with lead contamination have beset other cities such as Washington, DC and Milwaukee.

The City of Milwaukee announced measures to replace pipe laterals in older homes and businesses in the coming year. And while some say the city’s response was late in coming, others believe Milwaukee’s approach has been - if not proactive, at least responsive.

Susan Bence

Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou’s has thrown herself into the middle of drinking water issues for years. This week, the Virginia Tech researcher shared her insight with a group of concerned citizens in Milwaukee.

Her involvement began in 2001 when Washington D.C. faced a massive water crisis. “This was the most severe lead in water crisis that our country had ever seen, and that’s the moment I decided I will never stop working on this issue until we solve it,” she says.

Susan Bence

The next time a City of Milwaukee water line bursts outside your home, expect crews to replace the lead pipes on your property and give you a bill. The Common Council approved the measure Tuesday.

It requires homeowners replace the lead pipes that deliver city water to the property - if a rupture occurs in the system outside.

The goal is to start replacing 70,000 potentially dangerous lead service lines installed before 1951 to protect children from lead exposure.

Susan Bence

UPDATE: The Council approved the lead pipe ordinance with a vote 12 to 3 Tuesday morning, with one amendment. That being the Department of Public Works will be required to provide quarterly progress reports. 

Amendment author Alderman Russell Stamper says as service lines are replaced, he wants to know who is able to pay and who is not.

Wisconsin DNR Fails To Update Lead Testing Guidance In Wake Of Flint Crisis

Dec 7, 2016
Siddhartha Roy / FlintWaterStudy.org

Nine months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned against flushing water systems before testing for lead, the state Department of Natural Resources has not yet passed that advice on to public water systems in Wisconsin.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee faces an uphill battle when it comes to replacing all the lead pipes that carry city water into residents’ homes. Last week, hundreds of families picked up free filters to tide them over.

The math is hard to dismiss – 70,000 properties are serviced by lead pipes, and the initial infusion of filters addresses only a small fraction, about three percent.

Koscuiszko Community Center was one of the distribution points. The facility on South 7th Street buzzed inside and out, as an overflow crowd spilled into the evening chill.

Susan Bence

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided a glimpse of its realignment this week.

The announcement did not come as a surprise, but surely is raising some eyebrows. Over a year ago, the agency set out to streamline the DNR and make it more customer-friendly.

Change has been afoot at the Wisconsin DNR, since Republicans took control of state government in 2011 and this is the latest iteration.

Last year the Legislature cut the agency’s research team by 31 percent.

Pages