Lead in drinking water spurs state of emergency in Flint, MI
As reported by The Washington Post, parents of young children in Flint, MI have been suspect of their drinking water ever since the municipality switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in April 2014. Upon this transition, residents began questioning the water delivered to their taps, which they said was cloudy in appearance and had a distinct “foul” odor.
Despite assurances from city government that the water source was safe, this past January saw the release of a state notice informing Flint residents that their water contained unlawful levels of Trihalomethanes – a chlorine byproduct linked to cancer and other diseases. Prior to this declaration, distraught parents began flooding pediatricians’ offices to test their children for lead poisoning. In September, the local medical center issued a study confirming that the proportion of infants and children with above average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled since the city switched its water source to the Flint River.
According to the World Health Organization, “lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”
Since the state notice, Flint residents have loudly voiced their concerns by holding numerous protests and via a petition that garnered 26,000 signatures. The mayor, in reaction to her constituency, sought support from the federal government to deal with the “irreversible” effects of lead exposure on the city’s children. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently announced that he had a plan for the $12 million needed to reconnect the municipality back to Detroit.
Unfortunately, this move comes too late for children that have been permanently affected.
A class action federal lawsuit has been filed as a result of the lead tainted water. The suit alleges that the city and state officials “deliberately deprived” them of their 14th Amendment rights by replacing formerly safe drinking water with a cheaper alternative that was known to be highly toxic.
This never should have occurred and is another example of city government putting dollar signs in front of safety.
At Romanucci & Blandin, we are committed to the safety and wellbeing of all. The safety of children and toddlers is paramount as they rely solely on their caregivers. And, we all rely on city officials and key decision makers to ensure that drinking water is safe, essential city services are in place and the population is well served. In this case, it looks like the residents of Flint were let down and the lives of those most vulnerable will be adversely affected for years to come…if not for a lifetime.