Environmental Health

Environmental health utilizes a combination of surveillance, health promotion, enforcement, and assessment to prevent disease and injury, eliminate the disparate impact of environmental health risks and threats on population subgroups, and create health-supportive environments where everyone in Milwaukee has an equal chance to thrive.  Projects/areas of investigation include:

Climate Change and Health

Climate change is, and will continue, affecting public health. To enhance regional awareness of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience activities, the City of Milwaukee Health Department Climate Change and Health project has partnered with Reflo—Sustainable Water Solutions, a non-profit organization located in Milwaukee. Together, the MHD and Reflo have worked to support climate change adaptation and promote community health and health equity by sustainably improving food security, decreasing storm-water runoff, and decreasing carbon emissions associated with transportation of food, water treatment and transmission.

Through a collaborative project, Reflo has partnered with several Milwaukee community gardens to provide rainwater harvesting structures. The goal is simple: To use rainwater to provide a sustainable water source for Milwaukee’s community gardens and reduce dependence on City water. This simple step can help reduce the likelihood of local flooding, basement backups, and combined sewer overflows which are all potential consequences of more frequent and intense storms associated with climate change. The lessons learned at these locations helped create a resource guide for the replication of these efforts.

As part of the project, the MHD hosted seven educational sessions to engage and educate the public about climate change, water, and health.

Additional information is available on the following pages:

Mosquito Surveillance and Control

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause a range of illnesses. Most people infected (about 80%) have no symptoms. Others, however, experience flu-like symptoms with a possible rash and swollen glands. Less than 1% of cases include more serious neurological symptoms, and about 5% of cases are fatal.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department’s (MHD) WNV Surveillance and Control Program consists of public education and outreach and surveillance (monitoring human, wild bird, mosquito, and other animals for viral activity).

Additional information is available on the following pages:

Recreational Water Quality

To assure that Milwaukee beach-goers have safe, healthy summer fun at the beach, the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day to monitor water quality at each of the city’s three public beaches and issues daily water quality notifications to the public.

Through a continued partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zilber School of Public Health’s Miller Laboratory (ZSPH), water samples are collected and analyzed at both ZSPH and City of Milwaukee Health Department laboratories. Analysis determines the levels of E. coli, a micro-organism, present in the water. While E. coli is normally found in bodies of water, elevated levels can raise health concerns.

In addition, combining test results with a model that looks at a variety of beach conditions such as water temperature, wind direction, wave height, and more allows MHD staff to predict the E.coli value and issue public notifications daily online and at each beach.

Additional information is available on the following pages:

  • Beach Water Quality information on the interpretation of beach water quality advisories, any current advisories or warnings, as well as historical statistics
  • Water Recreation Health and Safety – provides an overview of cyanobacteria monitoring in lakefront lagoons.
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