A partnership between A.O. Smith Corp., United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County and the City of Milwaukee Health Department will provide 2,200 free water filters to select Milwaukee residents.
The program is targeting those living in homes with lead service lines, specifically pregnant women, nursing mothers and households with children under the age of six.
Those eligible will receive either the Aquasana Claryum countertop unit or the Claryum “Clean Water Machine” powered water filtration pitcher. A.O. Smith acquired Austin-based Aquasana earlier this year. The products remove 99 percent of lead from drinking water and more than 65 other potential contaminants.
The Social Development Commission and Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers will coordinate the distribution of the products and replacement filters to qualifying residents. The SDC will have filters beginning next week and Sixteenth Street is planning distribution events at the end of the month.
The program is funded by a $15,000 grant from the United Way, which was matched by the health system members of the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership: Aurora Health Care; Ascension Wisconsin; Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; and Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Additional money from A.O. Smith and the city brought the total funding to $90,000.
The budget approved last week by the Milwaukee Common Council includes $150,000 for purchasing additional filters.
Milwaukee area residents who are not eligible for the program can receive a discount on Aquasana water filters by using the password “Milwaukee” on the company website.
A.O. Smith chief executive officer Ajita Rajendra was asked on the company’s most recent earnings call if the opportunity to partner with municipalities was part of the rationale for the acquisition.
He said the specific challenges in Milwaukee didn’t drive the deal
“The fact that there are lead issues around the country like Flint and many other cities was clearly an indicator for us, among a lot of other things, that there is a water treatment opportunity in the U.S.,” Rajendra said.
He also acknowledged the partnership helps the company to promote the Aquasana name.
Rajendra said in cities with similar challenges he expects to see a combination of municipal involvement and homeowners purchasing filters on their own.
“I think that the big opportunity is not only getting the product out there, but getting a brand name out there in terms of being a leader in this category,” he said.