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Water Crisis Means Uncertainty Ahead For Flint's Children

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Feb 23, 2016 - 7:05:02 PM

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Demonstrators walk during a mile-long march to the City of Flint Water Plant, Feb. 19 in Flint., Mich.

WASHINGTON—House Democrats and their leader Nancy Pelosi heard testimony, last month, on Capitol Hill from public health experts and local officials about the ongoing poisoned water crisis in Flint, Mich.  The witnesses focused much of their testimony on problems and fallout facing the children from the crisis.

Witness after witness told the horrors of living in Flint including having to find clean water daily for bathing, cooking, washing clothes, something as simple as brushing their teeth to the education of children and the health care consequences of drinking lead filled water as well as the Mayor’s plan to rescue Flint.

“Flint is ready to move now on a $55,000,000 “Fast Start” program to address the immediate needs of removing 15,000 local service lines at our houses. I am pleased that, this morning, the Office of the Governor announced it would move to create a $25 million fund to begin Fast Start; we need that other $30 million too, whether from the state or the federal government or both,” said Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver at the Feb. 10 testimonies.

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Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks to the crowd before a mile-long march to the City of Flint Water Plant. The march was organized to highlight the push for more action on the city’s crisis with lead-tainted water. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

“The “Families of Flint Act” that has been proposed in the House is a step in the right direction because it would provide resources to address the short-term water infrastructure crisis, as well as resources for our longer term challenges to children’s health, children’s development, jobs and economic development, and other key factors necessary for dignified and productive family lives for the people of Flint—all of which have been put at tremendous risk by the water crisis,” she said.

 From cost saving to crisis

As many cities are also dealing with, Flint was faced with a budget that needed cutting.  The city needed to save money.  On April 26, 2014, the city changed its water source from the treated Detroit-supplied Lake Huron to the Flint River water temporarily, to save several million dollars until a new pipeline to Lake Huron was completed.

“Water from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department had very low corrosive potential for lead, while the Flint River water had a higher corrosive potential,” testified Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, one of the leading pediatricians working with the children of Flint.

Four government officials—one from the City of Flint, two from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and one from the Environmental Protection Agency—resigned over the mishandling of the crisis, and one additional MDEQ staff member was fired and another has a termination hearing pending.

 

Experts estimate that between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead and they may experience a range of serious health problems.  The latest crisis in addition to the water causing lead-based consequences is also a possible cause of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint that has killed 10 people and affected another 77.

Uncertainty ahead

There is no cure for lead-based poisoning.   “Increasing evidence shows that there is no safe blood lead level and that lead disproportionately impacts low income children. Lead has been linked to decreased IQ and an increased likelihood of ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder), delinquent behaviors, total arrests, and increased rates of arrests involving violent offenses,” said Dr. Hanna-Attisha.

“There are other adverse effects on health attributable to lead exposure, including but not limited to hematological, cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine.”

Every day before going to school many students have to first go get water for their family.  They trudge through the snow and bad weather to get free water from the numerous donation sites around the city. Then they go to school.

“The Flint Community Schools will need additional support in the form of expanded special education resources. We need lead-free facilities for all students so time can be spent on what matters most— teaching and learning. We need resources to measure the intellectual and emotional damage done to each, and possibly every child. This will require complete testing— both medical and intellectual assessment—to understand the magnitude of our issues,” testified Bilal Kareem Tawwah, Superintendent of the Flint School District.

“We need early intervention programs to provide the educational support so that each student will have the opportunity to lead a productive life, and year-round schooling to deliver these services. We need the resources to attract and retain talented specialists who are trained in special learning needs.”

The hearing had over 30 members of Congress in attendance including a significant number from the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to hear the testimony that also included Dr. Yanna Lambrindou, President, Parent for Nontoxic Alternatives and Dr. Eric Scorsone, Associate Professor and founding Director of the Michigan State University Extension.

“The Flint Water Crisis struck a chord in Michigan, in Washington, and across the country—and for good reason,” said Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.).  “It is clear that the residents of Flint suffered a serious injustice.  One of the most important responsibilities of government, at all levels—local, state, and federal—is to protect the health, safety, and well-being of the American people.”

“That trust and responsibility was betrayed in Flint by Governor Snyder and his administration.  I will continue to work with Leader Pelosi, Rep. DeLauro (D-CT), and Rep. Kildee (D-MI) to demand answers so this never happens again, and to ensure that the families and children of Flint receive the care they deserve.”

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