Flint lead catas­tro­phe four years later still a ma­jor is­sue

South Florida Times - - NATION - By MELISSA NANN BURKE

FLINT, Mich. -- Con­gres­sional Democrats on Wed­nes­day marked the fourth an­niver­sary of the wa­ter-sup­ply switch that led to the con­tam­i­na­tion of Flint’s drink­ing wa­ter by call­ing for an­other fed­eral over­sight hear­ing and ad­di­tional state aid for the re­cov­er­ing city.

The calls came as demon­stra­tors de­scended on Michi­gan’s Capi­tol in Lans­ing, where they marked the fourth an­niver­sary of Flint’s wa­ter switch that led to lead-con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and ad­vo­cated for restart­ing state-funded bot­tled wa­ter sup­plies in the city.

U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Town­ship and Brenda Lawrence of South­field both said they’d like Gov. Rick Sny­der to ap­pear again be­fore Congress be­fore his term ends and an­swer “tough ques­tions,” as he did two years ago.

“Be­cause there’s so much un­fin­ished busi­ness in Flint. There’s an al­most uni­ver­sal ac­knowl­edg­ment that the state govern­ment is al­most en­tirely re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pened,” Kildee said.

“The idea that he can walk away from of­fice hav­ing left so many ques­tions unan­swered isn’t right. When he came to Wash­ing­ton in those hear­ings, he said, ‘We will make it right.’ He needs to be held ac­count­able for that. He has not made it right.”

Sny­der has noted that for 18 straight months test­ing has shown that 90 per­cent of high-risk Flint wa­ter sites are at or be­low 4 parts per bil­lion of lead, far be­low the fed­eral ac­tion level of 15 parts per bil­lion. The re­sults led Sny­der to end sub­si­dized bot­tled wa­ter de­liv­er­ies.

Michi­gan has sent more than $350 mil­lion in state funds to Flint since late 2015 that has paid for bot­tled wa­ter, wa­ter sys­tem up­grades and lo­cal health ini­tia­tives. The Sny­der ad­min­is­tra­tion has em­pha­sized that wa­ter fil­ters, wa­ter test­ing as well as health, ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­grams con­tinue.

Lawrence said she has spo­ken to House Over­sight Chair­man Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, ask­ing him to call an­other hear­ing on the Flint wa­ter sit­u­a­tion, where she wants to hear from Sny­der, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Ge­ne­see County health of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity mem­bers.

“I haven’t got­ten ap­proval yet, but I will not give up,” said Lawrence, who is a mem­ber of the panel.

The law­mak­ers ac­knowl­edged there’s been progress but not enough. Both crit­i­cized Sny­der’s re­cent de­ci­sion to end the free sup­ply of bot­tled wa­ter the state had been pro­vid­ing for the city.

Res­i­dents, how­ever, note the state has told them be­fore that the wa­ter was safe to drink when it wasn’t.

“The no­tion that be­fore the pipes are re­placed that the gover­nor of Michi­gan would say no more bot­tled wa­ter for Michi­gan be­cause we’re telling you the wa­ter is safe is an in­sult to Flint,” Kildee said.

A Sny­der spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment.

Kildee and Lawrence were joined by Flint fam­i­lies and ac­tivists at a news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill on Wed­nes­day.

“What I would like to see is my house and friends’ house to get clean wa­ter so we can grow up and live a nor­mal child­hood like every­one else had an op­por­tu­nity to have,” said eight-year-old Ja’Bari Shep­ard, a stu­dent at Greater Heights Academy in Flint.

Congress in De­cem­ber 2016 ap­proved $170 mil­lion in emer­gency aid for Flint.

The pack­age in­cluded $100 mil­lion in grants to re­place lead ser­vice pipes and $50 mil­lion to help with the health care needs of chil­dren, preg­nant moth­ers and ba­bies ex­posed to lead, in­clud­ing a health reg­istry, and more fund­ing for the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion's Child­hood Lead Poi­son­ing Preven­tion Fund.

As part of a set­tle­ment of a fed­eral law­suit this month, thou­sands of chil­dren ex­posed to lead in the Flint area will be screened to de­ter­mine if they re­quire health or spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices.

Lawrence said she is wor­ried about the many par­ents who have moved their fam­i­lies out of Flint and that the state- and fed­er­ally funded re­sources aren’t fol­low­ing them.

“I am very con­cerned and want to so­lid­ify that we’re keep­ing our prom­ise to these chil­dren,” she said.

Melissa Mays, a Flint res­i­dent who is part of Wa­ter You Fight­ing For and Flint Ris­ing, said most peo­ple think “Flint is bet­ter.”

“We were given money by the fed­eral govern­ment, and we’ve sued the state govern­ment. We have lit­tle pieces but it’s not enough. It’s not enough,” Mays said at the news con­fer­ence.

“...We ask that you please don’t for­get Flint.”

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