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Op-Ed: Children are the victims in Flint, Michigan's water crisis

By Karen Graham     Jan 13, 2016 in Health
Members of the Michigan National Guard were called in late Tuesday night to help in passing out bottled water to families in Flint, Michigan because of the ongoing problem with lead-tainted water in the city's municipal water system.
Flint, Michigan's children are the real victims in what has been described as a man-made disaster. And it all started in March 2014 when the city began drawing its water from the Flint River after disconnecting from Detroit's water supply, allowing the city to save $4.0 million a year.
According to a story in Digital Journal in December 2015, People almost immediately began to complain about the foul smelling, urine-colored water.
The real hero, if anyone can be labeled as such, is Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a researcher and the director of the pediatric residency program at Hurley Medical Center.
As Digital Journal writer Megan Hamilton reported, it was this young doctor's concern for her patient's lives that prompted her to tenaciously follow through on lead testing, proving that the high lead levels she found were enough to warrant further studies and alert health officials.
What went wrong with changing the water supply?
Yes, people were told to stop drinking the water from their faucets and were urged to get lead filters for their homes. But as Dr. Hanna-Attisha was to discover, the governor said it just wasn't economically feasible to return to the Detroit water supply, even though it was found that water from the Flint River was leaching lead from the old water pipes in the city's municipal water system.
And during all this time, from the very first complaints about the water, the state Department of Environmental Quality did nothing, except to downplay and belittle Flint's concerns. Additionally, they also didn't require Flint to treat the river water for corrosion, according to CBS News.
Now, with the water crisis coming up on almost two years, officials at the state and local level are being quick to point fingers, at everyone but themselves. But that seems to be typical in situations such as this.
Governor Snyder, who declared a state of emergency in Flint last week, has faced criticism over the state's lack of a response to the water crisis. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said in a statement. "Sadly, myself and many leaders of my community have advocated for this type of response for months."
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat representing the Flint area, said: "It is the state's ultimate responsibility to act and make it right. Flint residents are the victims in this crisis and they deserve a more urgent response equal to the gravity of this crisis."
As ABC News points out, declaring a state of emergency in Flint will allow for federal funds to be siphoned into Genessee County, and they will be needed, if not today, most certainly in the long term. This is because the damage to Flint's young people has already been done.
Long-term exposure to lead is not something you can see. It sometimes takes years for the effects to show up. "We see the consequences of lead poisoning a lot later," Hanna-Attisha, told ABC News last month. "In five years we’re going to see kids with developmental delays and will have to be in special ed … in 15 years they’ll have problems with behaving."
Today, Flint is again hooked up to the Detroit water supply. But the city's worries are not over. The old pipes are still leaching lead into the water, and hundreds of children, poisoned with lead, will now have to be under a doctors care for a long time to come. And we haven't even gone into the long term costs of special education or the behavioral problems that will crop up, all because a city wanted to save some money.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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