Madeline Middlebrooks

  • Hosted by Great Rivers Environmental Law Center
  • Sponsored by Faber Daeufer & Itrato
  • Service location St. Louis, Missouri
  • Law school University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Issue area Environmental Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Madeline employs a multi-dimensional legal and policy strategy to support low-income families experiencing the lead contamination water crisis in St. Louis Public Schools.

Low-income children are exposed to lead while attending schools in certain parts of St. Louis. Based on public records, elevated lead levels were detected in drinking fountains at schools in the St. Louis region as recently as September 2020. Madeline will address this public health crisis by advocating on behalf of these families and advocating for policy reform at the local level or a legislative campaign.

Madeline believes that communities should not be exposed to contaminates or pollution at higher rates because of the color of their skin or their socioeconomic status. She was inspired to do this work because of her grandmother’s community in North St. Louis, which faces many environmental injustices. Madeline is excited to be starting her legal career representing her grandmother’s community and others by advocating for clean water in St. Louis Public Schools.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Madeline has:

  • Submitted several records requests to the City of St. Louis and St. Louis Public Schools to analyze and publish water testing results from 2016, 2019, and 2020 and has analyzed over 300 water sampling results.
  • Conducted hours of legal research, collaborated with advocates from around the country, and met with elected officials, which all culminated with her crafting a policy recommendation for St. Louis area schools.
  • Raised awareness of the lead contamination issues in St. Louis schools by presenting and meeting with over two dozen community groups
  • Filed comments on behalf of a community organization to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Revision and communicated the groups’ interest in a public listening session hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Next Steps

In the next year, Madeline plans to:

  • Start a pilot program in a few St. Louis Public Schools to adopt a “filter first” policy approach, which entails installing filtered hydration stations or advocating for other remediation methods
  • Engage with elected officials at the Missouri legislature to lay the groundwork of a legislative campaign that requires testing in all schools and some form of remediation


Fostering a More Just Society

Missouri bill would require schools to filter drinking fountains for lead

Environmental statutes and public health regulations should benefit everyone, not just the wealthy. Your ZIP code or the color of your skin should not dictate your quality of life in regard to exposure to toxins and pollution.

Madeline Middlebrooks /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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