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article imageFlint Michigan kids' high lead levels prompts state of emergency

By Karen Graham     Dec 15, 2015 in Environment
Flint - People in Flint, Michigan have been drinking treated water from the Flint River for the past 18 months. Now their children have elevated lead levels in their blood, and the new mayor has declared a state of emergency.
The train of events leading up to Mayor Karen Weaver's action on Monday night started back in April 2014 when the city of Flint began drawing water from the Flint River.
For years, Flint had been buying water from Detroit, and when the contract was up in March 2014, the city upgraded their water treatment plant on the Flint River, which was used about four times a year, installing a 36-inch diameter pipe to handle the inflow from the river.
Almost immediately, residents started complaining about the urine-colored water, saying it tasted and smelled awful. Then there were the health concerns residents noted, like hair falling out. At first, city and state officials denied there was a problem with the water, saying it was safe.
Finally, on January 2, 2015, residents received a notice from the state Department of Environmental Quality that said they had issued a notice of violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act for maximum contaminant levels for trihalomethanes, or TTHM, a group of four chemicals that are formed as a byproduct of disinfecting water.
It appears that over the summer of 2014, city water plant operators had used extra chlorine to disinfect the water, causing disinfectant byproducts to form. But the problem with excessive use of chlorine in the water system is but part of the problem, as Flint residents, who continued to get sick, were to find out.
In September of 2015, Digital Journal reported on a study headed up by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a researcher and the director of the pediatric residency program at Hurley Medical Center. She compared April 2014 blood tests taken over a span of a few months with recent samples taken over a similar time span this year,
The lead levels in babies and children had doubled throughout the city, with lead levels in high-risk areas being triple the safe level. Finally, at the end of September, Governor Rick Snyder finally acknowledged that Flint had a profound problem with their water system, but he fell short of declaring it an emergency, according to the Detroit Free Press.
At this time, Flint is again hooked up to the Detroit water system, but residents of Flint are still edgy and scared. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes "neurological and [behavioral] effects of lead are believed to be irreversible," and adds that children with elevated lead levels can suffer mental retardation, disruptive behavior, and even coma and death.
In a class-action lawsuit filed in November by Flint residents, they claim: "The deliberately false denials about the safety of the Flint River water was as deadly as it was arrogant." Families are still drinking bottled water, waiting to see what will become of the mayor's state of emergency.
More about high lead levels, Flint michigan, state of emergency, leadtainted water, corrosive
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