State of Emergency Declared for Flint, Michigan, as Lead Pollution in Water Reaches Alarming Levels

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The residents of Flint, Michigan, are calling for blood after reports of lead poisoning in their children have been declared official. It comes after a switch of municipal water supply for the town was made from Lake Huron in Detroit, to a known toxic supply from Flint River.

The Flint River, known for its severe pollution has been avoided by residents as an “essential ritual,” according to truthout.org. Almost immediately after the money saving switch by an unelected emergency manager appointed by then Rep. Governor Rick Snyder, complaints began to roll in. Reports of foul odors and musty colored water were, however, ignored and dismissed.

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Lemott Thomas carries free water being distributed in Flint, Mich., Feb. 3, 2015. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

A state of emergency was finally declared on January 5 because of lead water contamination. “The health and welfare of Flint residents is a top priority and we’re committed to a coordinated approach with resources from state agencies to address all aspects of this situation,” Snyder said in a news release. But it is a far cry from an initial statement from his Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in response to concerned parents. “Let me start here – anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax.”

Sam Owens AP

With almost 8,000 children in Flint, the cause for alarm comes too late for some. Children, the most vulnerable to lead poisoning, can suffer potential for irreversible damage in mental development and other physiological problems. The outcomes for Flint residents has yet to be determined in impact studies.

Hurley Medical Center Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who provided evidence of this disaster, stated children with abnormally high levels of lead in their blood pathology have doubled since the water supply switch had been made. One mother, LeeAnne Walters, had noticed a marked change in her 4 year old son. Rash breakouts, thinning hair and stunted growth were some of the symptoms that raised her terror.

FILE - In this January 21, 2015 file photo, LeeAnne Walters of Flint, Mich., shows water samples from her home from Jan. 21, 2015 and Jan. 15, 2015 to Flint's emergency manager Jerry Ambrose after city and state officials spoke during a forum discussing growing health concerns being raised by Flint residents at the Flint City Hall dome. Since the financially struggling city broke away from the Detroit water system last year, residents have been unhappy with the smell, taste and appearance of water from the city’s river as they await the completion of a pipe to Lake Huron. They also have raised health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems. A General Motors plant stopped using the water, saying it was rusting its parts. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Ryan Garza)
LeeAnne Walters of Flint, Mich., shows water samples from her home from Jan. 21, 2015 and Jan. 15, 2015 to Flint’s emergency manager Jerry Ambrose  (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Ryan Garza)

According to the World Health Organization, the acceptable concentration of lead in water is 10 parts per billion. Test results from Virginia Tech showed in the Walters’ water supply the level was an alarming 13,200 parts. The EPA employee who conducted the tests and raised the alarm was “taken off the case,” highlighting the arrogance and blatant disregard of the MDEQ.

Newly elected mayor, Karen Weaver speaks frankly of the matter, declaring it a human-made disaster and declaring a state of emergency. Dr Hanna Attisha says of the situation: “emergency…alarming…gut wrenching.”


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