DISASTERS: WATER POLLUTION :
MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: LEAD POISONING :
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RACIAL SEGREGATION :
What Went Wrong In Flint
What Went Wrong In Flint
By Anna Maria Barry-Jester
Filed under Public Health
Published Jan 26, 2016
A shorter URL for the above link:
Jackie has lived in Flint for much of the past 48 years, and for many of those, she owned a drain-cleaning business that counted several industrial factories as clients. I saw what they put down those drains, she told me, shaking her shoulder-length salt-and-pepper hair in disgust. So when the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the murky waters that ran through Flint in April of 2014, she refused to drink it. The idea of it made her ill, she said, thinking about all the industrial chemicals, sewage and road salt that had made their way into the river over the years. John, however, keeps an old soda bottle filled with water by his side whenever hes home, and he filled it with tap water frequently. Mindful of her limited budget as a retiree, Jackie gave in after six or eight weeks and started drinking the water as well.
By late summer, they both started having stomach problems, losing hair and developing rashes, as did several of their children and grandchildren who either lived elsewhere in the city or periodically came to stay with them. In August, E. coli was found in the citys water, forcing Flint to issue multiple advisories to residents to boil the water before use. By October, the Pembertons had become regulars at City Council meetings along with a group of other residents concerned about water that smelled of sulfur and chlorine, often came out of the tap tinted the color of urine or rust, and appeared to be causing a long list of health concerns.
I drank the water for eight or nine months, John said. In the poor parts of town, those people drank it for one and a half years. Some still are.
Today, we know that those health concerns include poisoning from a well-understood neurotoxin: lead. That realization has led to international outrage, protests from Flint residents, and the resignation of several federal, state and local employees, though not as many as some Flint residents would like. More than a year after residents started sounding alarm bells, its now clear that employees at the states Department of Environmental Quality collected insufficient data and ignored the warning signs visible in what they did collect. In the process, they allowed the residents of Flint to be poisoned.
Officials at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the agency in charge of making sure water is safe in the state, made a series of decisions that had disastrous consequences:
Against federal guidelines, they chose not to require the Flint water plant to use optimized corrosion control, despite telling the Environmental Protection Agency they were doing so in an email on Feb. 27, 2015.
They took few samples and took them from the wrong places, using a protocol known to miss important sources of lead, which some say didnt comply with a 25-year-old law meant to prevent lead exposure in residential water.
They threw out two samples whose inclusion would have put more than 10 percent of the tests above whats known as the actionable level of lead, 15 parts per billion. Had the DEQ not done so, the city would have been required to warn residents that there was a problem with lead in the water back in the summer of 2015, or possibly earlier.
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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