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Madeline Semanisin

  • 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 employed a multi-dimensional legal and policy strategy to support families and community organizations concerned about elevated lead levels in school drinking water across the state of Missouri.

Due to the age of some school buildings in Missouri, children are exposed to lead while attending school in certain parts of the state. This was very prevalent in schools in the St. Louis area. For example, based on public records, elevated lead levels were detected in drinking fountains at schools in the St. Louis region as recently as September 2021. Madeline addressed this public health crisis by advocating on behalf of these communities, culminating in her leading the efforts in passing the Get the Lead Out of School Drinking Water Act.

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. Throughout his Fellowship, Madeline started her legal career by representing her grandmother’s community and other while advocating for clean water in St. Louis Public Schools.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Madeline:

  • Led the Filter First Community Coalition to victory with the passage of the Get the Lead Out of School Act, which requires the testing and remediation of lead in school drinking water
  • Researched and drafted the first draft of this state bill
  • Raised awareness of lead contamination issues in St. Louis schools by presenting and meeting with over two dozen community groups
  • Conducted hours of legal research, collaborated with advocates from around the country, and met with elected officials, which culminated in Madeline crafting a policy recommendation for St. Louis area schools
  • Filed comments on behalf of a community organization to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Revision and communicated the group’s interest in a public listening session hosted by the Agency

Next Steps

Madeline will stay at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center as a staff attorney, where she will continue to focus on environmental justice issues throughout the state of Missouri.


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 Semanisin /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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