Tomorrow (27), Rachael Maddow of MSNBC will host a town hall meeting in Flint Michigan about the water crisis at 9PM ET. Maddow’s reporting was first to alert the nation to this atrocity. While Flint residents are still reeling and many are growing ill, high levels of lead were reported Sunday (25) in Sebring, Ohio. The water treatment plant operator allegedly “falsified reports.”
Apparently, elevated lead levels were detected some months ago in Ohio; however, despite pressure from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Sebring officials did not warn local residents (about 8,100 people relying on Sebring’s water system) until last week.
Ohio officials are accused of “ignoring months of health warnings about foul-smelling water, even as residents complained it was making them sick.”
The Flint water crisis flooding the city with a damaging neurotoxin was likened to environmental racism Sunday (24) by a U.S. News World Reporter. Lead levels have been as high as 104 parts per billion of lead: the EPA’s regulatory limit is 15 parts per billion.
According to a citywide public health directive, “all of Flint’s 8,657 children under the age of six should be considered exposed.” 56% of Flint residents are African Americans. 41% live in poverty.
It can take up to five years to see the full effects of lead poisoning. Cities across the Nation need to start looking at the Flint water crisis from a personal perspective.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when many municipal water systems were being constructed, lead was preferred for its malleability in bending around corners and because it lasts longer than concrete or iron.
At the time, installation of lead pipes persisted because the lead industry was powerful, and because known side effects were deemed a “lesser evil” than the potentially worse problem of diseases like typhoid, which piped-in water could prevent. The result?
As much as half of the entire underground piping structure in America is currently made of aging lead. The Flint water crisis could happen in virtually any town, U.S.A.
Flint and thousands of other American cities, suburbs, and towns have failing lead water piping beneath their communities. Consequently, this is likely not the first time that water lead levels have crept up across our country, exposing children and families to toxins including lead, in Flint and other locations.
At the Masonic temple on Saturday, hundreds of downtown Flint residents arrived to have their bodies tested for lead content levels. Scarcely and hour passed before the lead testing kits, funded by a local lawyer, had run out.
A mother and son who arrived early enough to see a nurse, said that they had stopped using tap water to brush their teeth just two weeks ago. The son’s hair began falling out in November. The mother, who is also pregnant, is worried that her unborn child may have been exposed to lead.
A 53-year-old who says that he cannot afford to buy water for his five children said, “My body feels contaminated. It feels like they [are] trying to kill us out here.” A few blocks away, a family faces eviction from their home because of leaking pipes and rancid mold making the property uninhabitable. Although many families are now using bottled water for cooking, they do not have adequate, purified water for drinking or bathing.
Despite the $80M in aid allocated by President Barack Obama for the people of Flint, stating that, “Our children should not have to be worried about the water that they’re drinking in American cities… that’s not something that we should accept,” residents fear that they will not see the benefits.
Flint’s families have been exposed to lead tainted water since the epidemic began in April of 2014, when the city’s Emergency Managers under Governor Snyder (R MI)’s administration allegedly decided despite the proximity of just 70 miles from Michigan’s Great Lakes – the largest freshwater source in the world, to overstep City Council authority and impose cost-cutting that resulted in drawing Flint’s water from the highly corrosive local river.
Consequently, Flint’s population of about 100,000 people has been in crisis, living in a state of paranoia and for many, unsanitary conditions as people are afraid to bathe in Flint’s water. Rashes, a stench from the pipes, discolored water, and hair loss are the most common outward signs that damage has already been done.
Water bills are still creeping up in Flint. Contaminated water should not be eligible for a fee. Residents were initially requested to boil the water before drinking it. Many state that they would have stopped drinking the water sooner, except that they were assured the water would be safe after boiling.
Two weeks ago, U.S. National Guard troops began making supply drops in Flint; however, aid has yet to reach many homes distant from drop sites. While there were at least 8 distribution sites, families with identification were only allowed one crate of water per day, and the Guardian reports that it “witnessed several people turned away by troops” as demands outnumbered supply.
One family, all of whose members have now tested positive for heavy metal poisoning, leaves a mother feeling guilt for serving the poisonous water to her family. She should not have the bear the brunt of that emotion for a situation that was beyond her control.
Although a Flint resident brought the high lead levels in her home to the attention of local officials as early as February of 2015, it was brushed off as an isolated case. However, one EPA worker was not convinced, and she continued looking into the matter.
A disturbing communication followed, stating that Flint water lead levels were high. Only after schools began reporting lead contamination as high as 101 parts per billion, did the local government declare a public emergency.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports there is “no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in the blood.” According to a Vox (part of Vox Media, a digital media company) report, “Exposure to lead at any level, especially in children, can cause irreversible health problems such as permanent learning disabilities, lowered IQ, and difficulty concentrating.”
The cumulative property of lead makes it notoriously dangerous. Lead exposure resulting in blood levels of the toxin does not dissipate. Thus, exposure over a given year is added to exposure the next year, and the next, until the blood level lead content reaches toxicity (which requires only a low level) and damaging effects begin.