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Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s problem-plagued drinking water is expected to play a significant role in next week’s election for mayor. 

For more than a year, people in Flint have been holding protests about the city’s tap water.  

“There’s some people in Flint, Michigan who don’t believe this water is safe,” Pastor Alfred Harris told a crowd at one protest at Flint city hall a few months back. 

Along with complaints about rising lead levels and other problems, many have been calling for changes at city hall.

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It’s national lead poisoning prevention week, and Metro Detroit county health officials are zeroing in on the problem with an event Tuesday.

The event at Sterling Heights’ Freedom Hill is focused mostly on education and awareness.

But there’s also an opportunity to test kids’ toys and other products for lead.

Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

The fallout from the Flint water crisis is far from over.

Yes, the state’s top water official has been “reassigned.”  

And sure, the Department of Environment Quality director admits they bungled the testing of Flint’s water, and failed at setting up appropriate corrosion control measures. Those measures would have prevented lead from leaching from pipes in the Flint’s water.

But there is a deeper anger in Flint aimed at Governor Snyder, and the string of emergency managers he appointed to run the struggling city when it reached a financial crisis.

The front of a "Dutch Boy White Lead" paint can. Dust from old paint is still one of the major ways kids get exposed to lead.
user Thester11 / Wikimedia Commons

What’s happening in Flint has some people wondering about what’s happening in their homes.

The Flint water crisis is highlighting the problem of lead exposure in kids.

Lead can permanently lower IQ and cause behavior problems. Researchers have even linked children with elevated lead levels with a higher propensity toward crime later in life.

Now, state officials are urging schools around the state to test their water for lead.

But it’s also important to know what’s going on at home.

wikipedia / creative commons

Grand Rapids Public Schools plans to test the drinking water in its schools  for lead.

The district will start with older buildings first. They are more likely to have lead pipes.

John Helmholdt is Communications Director for Grand Rapids Public Schools. He says the district had already planned to do the testing before high lead levels were found in some Flint homes and school buildings.

"This is all the more reason we should be doing it, having seen what our friends in Flint have gone through," says Helmholdt.

Courtesy of the office of State Rep. Phil Phelps

A state lawmaker is heading to court to force the city of Flint and a state agency to release documents related to the decision to make the Flint River the city’s drinking water source.

A year and a half ago, the city switched from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.   

Initially, there were complaints about the smell, taste, and appearance of the city’s drinking water. More problems, including high levels of lead in the water in many homes, led Gov. Rick Snyder to address a $12 million plan to return the city to Detroit water, until a new pipeline from Lake Huron is completed next year. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint officials are still working out the details of returning to Detroit water.

Last week, Gov. Snyder announced a $12 million plan to reconnect Flint to Detroit water.   The state is putting up half the money.  The rest is coming from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the city. 

A year and a half ago, Flint switched its drinking water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.  That was meant to be temporary while the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline was under construction.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint is going back to Detroit water.   

The state, the city and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation together are kicking in $12 million to shut off the tap to the Flint River.

A year and a half ago, city leaders stood in Flint's water plant and raised plastic glasses to toast the city’s switch to the Flint River.

Eighteen months later, Governor Snyder has announced the end of the Flint River experiment.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A panel of experts is recommending the city of Flint return to Detroit's water system.

As protesters marched outside Flint city hall chanting “lead free water,” inside local, state and national health and water experts agreed that change is needed. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today people lined up in the rain to get water filters in Flint.

The state is handing out 20,000 Brita filters to people at risk for high lead in their tap water.   Over the weekend, the Genesee County Health Department and United Way gave away 4,000 PUR filters.

“Our goal is to make sure that every single resident in the city of Flint, who needs a water filter gets one,” says Sheryl Thompson, with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Experts will try to come up with a solution to Flint’s water problems tomorrow.

State and federal regulators, along with national experts, will take part in the meeting that will take place at Flint city hall Wednesday afternoon.

They will hear a presentation from Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards. Edwards is in New York City for a prior commitment, but he’s rearranged his schedule so he can make his presentation to the tech panel remotely. 

Sarah Razak / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Confused about corrosion control? We were too.

In Flint, lead levels in some children's blood have spiked dramatically. Scientists believe the Flint River is part of the problem. Flint switched from Detroit’s water system and started pulling water from the Flint River last year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State and local officials Friday unveiled a plan for fixing Flint’s water problems.

But one demand of many city residents is not on the list.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality director Dan Wyant addressed what he sees as the critical problem in Flint. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Recent studies have shown blood lead levels in Flint children have doubled, even tripled in some parts of town, since the city started using the Flint River as its drinking water source. 

So today Genesee County officials declared a public health emergency.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint officials are seriously looking at returning to Detroit water.

City Administrator Natasha Henderson is talking with the different groups needed to make the switch back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It took five Home Depot employees a couple trips to unload a pickup truck filled with dozens of cases of bottled water into a classroom at a Flint elementary school this afternoon. 

The donation was the largest, but far from the only, bottled water donation to Flint schools today. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint has issued an advisory for lead in city drinking water.

The advisory comes a day after local hospital officials announced blood lead levels in young children in Flint have doubled, and in some cases tripled, since the city started getting its drinking water from the Flint River in April of 2014.

Mayor Dayne Walling says city residents should take steps to reduce their lead exposure.

The Flint water treatment plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Amid growing concerns about Flint’s drinking water, federal, state and local elected leaders were briefed today in Lansing by federal and state environmental regulators. After the meeting, one prominent elected official called for more independent testing of Flint's drinking water.

Recent tests by researchers from Virginia Tech University have shown "serious" lead levels in a significant percentage of Flint homes. The tests showed lead levels in some homes at 15 parts per billion or higher. The researchers have advised many homeowners to stop drinking their tap water, especially if there are young children or pregnant women living there.

Marc Edwards, PhD, of Virginia Tech University, holds two vials of water, one from Flint and the other from Detroit. Edwards' research helped uncover the serious problems affecting Flint's water supply.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This past week, researchers from Virginia Tech University were back in Flint to conduct more tests of the city’s tap water. 

A previous round of tests of nearly 300 homes found ‘serious’ lead levels in nearly one in five homes.  

That’s at odds with tests conducted by the city of Flint and overseen by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which didn’t show higher than acceptable levels of lead in the water. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality plans to respond Monday to a demand for answers about Flint’s water woes.

Last week, State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, and state Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, sent a letter to DEQ director Dan Wyant demanding answers to a list of questions about the safety and treatment of Flint’s drinking water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New tests show that possible changes to how Flint treats its drinking water may not solve a problem that could be creating "serious" lead levels in people's tap water.

Virginia Tech University researchers say a big part of the problem with Flint’s tap water is the corrosiveness of Flint River water.

They claim it’s 19 times more corrosive to lead solder used in pipes than the Detroit water it replaced.     

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A candidate for Flint mayor wants the federal government to investigate the city’s problem plagued water system and how city officials have responded to those problems.

Residents have complained about the city’s water since a switch last year from Detroit water to the Flint River as the source.

The latest concern has focused on lead levels. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By the end of this week, a team at Virginia Tech University may complete testing of water samples from 300 Flint homes. Preliminary tests have shown “serious” levels of lead in city water.

Professor Marc Edwards is a MacArthur fellow who has spent decades analyzing lead in municipal water supplies. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Critics say they have new reasons to demand the city of Flint go back to Detroit water.

“It’s time for us to stand up … speak up and tell this mayor to get out of town,” Pastor Allen Overton told a small crowd gathered outside Flint city hall on Monday. Overton and others are angry with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and other city leaders for the city’s problem-plagued water system. 

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Detroit is in the middle of one of the most ambitious demolition campaigns the nation has ever seen, tearing down about 200 houses every week.

Many of the homes being razed are in neighborhoods where people still live. So Detroit officials sat down before the blitz to come up with some new regulations designed to keep people safe from dust, and from hazardous materials that could be in that dust – like lead, or asbestos.

user Steven Depolo /Flickr

Childhood lead exposure costs Michigan about $300 million a year.

That's according to a report by the University of Michigan and the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

They recommend lead remediation projects for around 100,000 houses throughout the state at a cost of $600 million. They say the program would pay for itself in three years.

Paul Haan is executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. He says more remediation programs would be a good long-term investment for the state. 

“At the end of the day we’re going to continue to pay the cost of the problem of lead poisoning if older housing is not remediated,” said Haan.

“So the question we really need to ask ourselves is do we want to pay the increased cost of suffering the consequences, or do we want to pay the lower cost of remediation?”

About 70% of childhood lead exposure comes from lead-based paint in older homes.

Earlier this week, the state Legislature approved an additional $500,000 for lead hazard control in next year’s state budget. The change is pending approval from the governor.

Haan says this shows that “public will is building and that state leadership recognizes the need for the kind of investments called for in the report.” 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There‘s one kind of pollution that researchers believe robs kids of their future like no other.

Scientists have found evidence it diminishes their intelligence, causes behavioral problems, even increases the likelihood they’ll end up in prison.

This toxin’s damage is known.

We even know how to protect children from being exposed to it.

Yet tens of thousands of Michigan children are poisoned by lead every day.

Jessica Jeffries showed me the work that was done on her upper-floor apartment of a two-story house in Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s Mardi Gras time. But there’s a warning for people who want to ‘Let the Good Times Roll’.

People will go to great lengths to grab a necklace of Mardi Gras beads. But the Ecology Center’s Jeff Gearhart says they should think twice.

The Ann Arbor environmental group tested beads from different sources and found many contained high amounts of highly toxic substances,

Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say even low levels of lead in blood can affect a child’s IQ, their ability to pay attention and their performance in school. Kids are most often exposed to lead in paint in homes built before 1978.

Robert Scott is with the Michigan Department of Community Health. He says over the past several years, there’s been great progress in cleaning up lead contamination in old homes in the state. He says lead poisoning in kids in Detroit has dropped more than 70 percent since 2004.

“I do want to emphasize though, that with this steady decrease over the years, there are still pockets in Detroit and other places where the rates are still much higher,” says Scott.

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