Poisoning the Children of Flint, Michigan

SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome to the Real News
Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. A 50 percent increase in lead levels in children’s
blood has caused the mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver, to declare a state of emergency.
In April of last year in 2014, the city of Flint switched its water source from the Detroit
system to Flint River. The switch has led to various levels of toxins in the water supply,
including lead. The water coming out of the taps in the city is foul-smelling and badly
discolored. Initially there were problems of E. coli and then high levels of total trihalomethanes,
a carcigenic byproduct of chlorine that causes cancer and other diseases. Now joining us to talk about all of this is
Curt Guyette. He is an award-winning journalist who has been covering Detroit for nearly 20
years. He is now working for the ACLU of Michigan and reporting on issues related to emergency
management and open government. Good to have you with us again, Curt. CURT GUYETTE: Pleasure to be here. PERIES: So Curt, last time you were on the
Real News Network we were reporting on a state of emergency over the water supply in Flint,
Michigan. So what’s the difference between that emergency and this one? GUYETTE: Well, this one was declared by the
city itself, and I think the significance is, number one, you finally have city officials
admitting that this is a disaster. Previously when the city was under emergency management
and the previous mayor, both of whom supported the switch to the Flint River, and thereby
were responsible for this disaster, now there’s a new mayor who is not responsible for it.
And only concern is addressing the problem. And the first step in addressing the problem
is admitting there is a problem. And she is doing that by declaring the state of emergency.
It also has the potential to better position the city to receive disaster relief from the
federal government. PERIES: Now, Curt, from what I understand,
the switching from the Detroit’s water system to the Flint River was supposed to save the
city somewhat, something like $5 million. We know Flint is in a cash-strapped situation,
but now changing it back to Detroit’s water system is going to cost apparently over $12
million, not to mention the sick children that need to be treated and perhaps lawsuits
as well. How are the officers, officials, rationalizing their decision here? GUYETTE: That’s a, that’s a good question.
I think that they will say this problem took them by surprise, that they weren’t prepared
for it. But that just goes to show, if what they’re saying is true, at the very least
was a lack of due diligence to ensure that the river water would be safe before doing
the switchover. PERIES: Did they not test it before they switched?
I mean, you would think, you know, providing water supply for a city there’s some basic
measures in place to test it before making such a drastic decision. GUYETTE: Yes. And you know, I’m still trying
to get a complete answer as to what was and wasn’t done prior to the switch. But Mark
Edwards, the, who’s one of the world’s leading experts on issues like this and has been working
very closely with the people of Flint, said that, you know, any sort of reasonable testing
of the river water beforehand, it would have easily been predictable that this would be
the consequence, because the river water is so highly corrosive. And that this is just
a predictable outcome. The lead contamination is a predictable outcome of using that highly
corrosive water. And then the problem was compounded by the
fact that the city and the state made a decision to stop adding corrosive control phosphates,
to use phosphates to control corrosion in the pipes. And inexplicably they made the
decision to stop using that. So they went from the Detroit water, which is clean, safe,
not highly corrosive at all, to–but they did use corrosion control, to the Flint River
water, which is multiple times more corrosive than the Detroit water. And then when they
needed corrosion control more than ever, they stopped using it. And when you’re talking about the cost, one
of the major, major costs that the people of Flint are going to be facing is repairing
and replacing the water delivery system infrastructure that has been terribly, terribly damaged by
the use of this highly corrosive water. PERIES: Now, how are the parents coping with
this situation? I understand the neurological damage, the behavioral effects, of lead in
your bloodstream is, according to the WHO, irreversible. What’s the situation there,
and how are they coping with it? GUYETTE: You know, it’s a very difficult thing
to cope with. It’s devastating. Absolutely devastating to learn that your child is irreversibly
impaired by water that was supposed to be safe. That your government was repeatedly
telling you was safe. So it’s, it’s devastating. But one of the
things that they’re doing is participating in a, a class action lawsuit that the intent
is to, to help all these people recover damages. And among those damages are the, the health
effects on these families. And in the case of the children, the increased difficulty
of providing education, because the lead exposure results in lowered IQs, learning disabilities,
and behavioral problems. And so the residents of Flint are going to be needing help paying
for all those things. PERIES: And yet it’s a cash-strapped city.
So where does the responsibility for all this eventually lie? GUYETTE: I believe it lies with the state,
because it was the state that came in and took over the city. It was the state emergency
manager who was in charge when the decision was made to leave the Detroit system and start
using the Flint River. And it was purely an economic decision, made without, without really
taking into account the health consequences that could and did result from that, from
that really horribly misguided decision. PERIES: Curt, we really appreciate the work
you’re doing on behalf of the residents of Michigan, and Flint in particular. And we
look forward to your continued reports with us. We do want to follow this story, because
I think other cities may be faced with similar kinds of situations, and we’re not even privy
to it at this time. GUYETTE: That’s absolutely true, because one
of the problems is that the way the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality conducts
tests under the federal EPA’s lead and copper rule are absolutely intended to minimize the
amount of lead being found. And Michigan is not the only state where that’s occurring. And there were just hearings by the EPA which
is considering changes to the rule, and one of the things that came out in that hearing
was the fact that there’s, throughout the United States, 10 million lead service lines.
And so unless the proper corrosion control is being used, and unless the proper detection
methods are being employed, people are going to be exposed to lead. And it’s important
to emphasize that there is no safe level of lead. So if there’s any level of lead in someone’s
drinking water, that’s an unsafe level, and has potential to have really severe consequences.
So this isn’t just a Flint problem, this is a nationwide issue. PERIES: And is there any quick fixes to this
besides using this treatment to control the corrosion? Is replacement of all of these
pipes the ultimate answer? GUYETTE: I believe it is. But it’s a complicated
issue, because first of all it’s so expensive. There are ten million of these pipes. The
cost of replacing them can be $3500 each and upwards, depending how long it is. But it’s
complicated by the fact that typically the municipality will own half of the pipe. The
section that goes from the water main that runs down the street to the homeowner’s property
line. And then the second half is from the property line to the house, is owned by the
homeowner. And how you compel them to replace their half of the line is a difficult thing,
especially if it’s a landlord situation, might not care, someone doesn’t want to invoke a
$3500 expense, especially if it’s a property in a low-income neighborhood. So it’s a very difficult issue. And really
the answer is money. You know, lots, lots and lots. We’re talking about billions of
dollars here. PERIES: And Curt, so what is the potential
damage to citizens that don’t replace their pipes inside their property line? GUYETTE: Well, you know, one thing that Mark
Edwards points out is that the biggest problem is not lead in your water, the biggest problem
is lead in your water and not knowing about it. Because if you know about it and you’re
in the financial position, you can filter the water. It helps if you run the water for
five minutes or something to, to get the fresh water that’s not been sitting in that lead
service line. So I would say the number one thing that people
should be doing is getting their water tested to see if there’s lead present in it. And
then once they make that determination, excuse me, they can decide what to do in terms of
addressing it. But the most important thing is to first find out. PERIES: Curt, important work you’re doing.
Thank you so much for joining us today. GUYETTE: Thanks for having me on. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the
Real News Network.

35 thoughts on “Poisoning the Children of Flint, Michigan

  1. criminal. water from the tap is never safe, no matter what river it flows from. distillation is one of the only real ways to purify it of all the poisons in it.

  2. If Americans worried about things that matter instead of money they wouldn't be in this mess. Keep worshiping money and problems will keep coming.

  3. Real News, you decry the irreversible damages wrought by lead contaminated water, rightly so; problem is Lead was added to the gasoline formulation for in excess of SIXTY YEARS with the product Tetra-Ethyl-Lead (T.E.L.). Seemingly people forget/are ignorant of the fact that from the mid 1920's til 1986 this additive spewed forth it's poisons by virtue of the exhaust from car's and the like. Is that just to be dismissed? Relegated to ANCIENT HISTORY? Further Lead is NOT degraded with the passage of time (from what I understand) SOOOO, so it's a pollutant that KEEPS ON GIVING. I'd LOVE to see you do a report on this topic.

  4. Random fact, at least what I have been "lead" to believe. A vast majority of all fire hydrants contain lead and when it was realized it was pushed off to the side because of the cost to replace them all……….. So all those kids and events where hydrant water is used and played in is inherently dangerous

  5. What we need are more of those emergency managers all across the nation. Just look at the money they saved they're greaaaaat!!!! To hell with the citizens well being. Besides every dollar Snyder stripped out of the publics budget went to his cronies in private business. This isn't going to stop until the public wakes up to the kind hearted corporations now running our government. Great job you republican gouls and for you back boneless democrats helping it to take place across the country. Privatize the profits and socialize the cost. We're number 1 and don't you forget it

  6. Some communities are better at keeping secrets than others. Many thanks to those who have fought to bring this to light.

  7. All public drinking water is laden with chemicals and drug residue. Flints water was contaminated years ago. EPA and the states environmental program? Ignored or covered up, the facts. Someone needs to go to prison. Really.

  8. Industries near rivers and lakes were thriving on dumping PCBs, Dioxins, and other toxic material for decades while congress and EPA looked other way, singing "first world progress songs !" Later when squeezed to stop this pollution, the industries moved abroad to countries like Mexico, China ….

  9. Thank you for covering our story! We've been fighting the State since January and our kids are sick, we're sick, people are suffering and our Governor refuses to help. He put us here and is ignoring our science and facts.

  10. Another Republican politician with no empathy for the people he is supposed to be serving. Snyder KNEW he was poisoning people and tried to hide it. What is wrong with these people. Aren't you ashamed to call yourself republican?

  11. I hope from the bottom of my heart that this piece of knowledge is passed on to the parents and children in Michigan as soon as possible. BENTONITE CLAY is a Natural Method for Detoxifying Heavy Metals such as LEAD out of the body. It is both cheap and effective. One can take clay baths & ingest it orally. I urge everyone affected by this tragedy to research this miraculous clay.

  12. just like the 9/11 workers……. and they wont pay them either….. just put those sick kids in JAIL…!!!! WHEN THEIR BEHAVIOR MANIFEST ITSELF!!!!

  13. it's not just flint but the surrounding areas as well I am from flint Michigan the effects of lead posioning is aggressive behavior and loss of self control we are about to have a crime wave in my city because so people have lead posioning. don't forget the crime wave of the 1920 due to lead in gas.

  14. Ahh… but this was government… all the way.

    I thought that only "evil" corporations did this?

    At least when "evil" corporations did it, government could get behind legal efforts to penalize them.

    Now that government is 100% in charge… supposedly this was not possible. Government is all knowing and all seeing and all good…

  15. People need to realize what is in the water they drink all over the US. Just Fluoride alone reduces IQ. Look it up. And it is not the fluoride the dentist will give you either, It is toxic waste left over from fertilizer production among other things. Call you local water works and ask them the chemical name of the fluoride, It should scare the hell out of you just to hear they needed to add a chemical to keep from eating the pipes. Now imagine in a few states it is illegal to collect rain water

  16. This guy and his incoherent babbling is not conducive to people taking on the gravitas of this gross injustice and criminality.

  17. its all because our taxes we pay go into the deep lined pockets of the city planners, mayors and governors, what a rip off, they poisoned our children for profit, if that isn't considered crimes against humanity than what is?

  18. This is an absolute sin to just care about Money over Children.  These Children will now have Learning Disabilities and Low I.Q.s making it very difficult for them to get out of Poverty.  I was wondering can Chelation Therapy can help remove lead in children's bones, teeth, and brains? If Chelation Therapy can, then the State of Michigan should pay for it to help the Children!!! I really feel for the Parents and the Children who have been victimized by those politicians.

  19. Black or white. That is just unacceptable. I'm not sure of all that is going on at this point , butt they better hold someone responsible for this acted of greed Or neglect.

  20. Water department on cape cod doesn't know what cryptosporidium giardia or brain eating aeomba are!! They told me to swim in a pool!! They didn't know you can get 2 of those in a pool what a joke were next in line for horrible water!!

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