That was France. This is Flint.
said this yet-to-be-charged criminal
Jennifer Mason was running a bath for her toddler son, Oliver, when her eyes began to sting. The tub smelled like an over-chlorinated swimming pool.
It was just a couple of days after the city of Flint switched from importing its water from Detroit to using the nearby Flint River for its water source to save money in April of 2014. “We could immediately tell the water quality was different,” Mason, a high school English teacher, said. Some days the tap water smelled earthy, like a lake. The next day it would give off a burning chemical odor. Another time it reeked of rotten eggs.
Local and state officials kept insisting the water was safe, ignoring complaints from residents that it smelled and tasted bad and in some cases looked red or brown. Despite these official assurances, Mason and her husband, Tim, bought filters for the bathtub, shower and kitchen tap. They began drinking only bottled or filtered water, and made sure their kids, 2-year-old Penelope and 4-year-old Oliver, never tasted a drop of the Flint River.
Their caution turned out to be prescient. The water was rapidly corroding the city’s pipes, and last summer, independentresearchers found that lead and iron had leached from the pipes into the water and had begun showing up at elevated levels in local children’s blood. Though state officials, including Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, were aware of the lead problems last summer, they were slow to respond, allowing thousands of children to be exposed to more lead for months before declaring a state of emergency Jan. 5.
Filters and bottled water are now being provided to every Flint resident, with the help of the National Guard. But these measures don’t soothe the worried minds of Flint mothers like Mason, who are still concerned about how much lead their children were exposed to before the state admitted the water was dangerous. Lead is most harmful to children under 5 years old and can cause irreversible brain damage in high enough doses.
“I worry about what the water quality was before — was it always safe?” Mason said. “Now I second-guess a lot of my decisions that I made as a parent. I worry about my kids — and when I was pregnant, was I ingesting water that was safe for my babies?”
Jenay Young, a 28-year-old nursing assistant, said she constantly worries her two children could be exposed. Simple family routines like brushing teeth and taking baths have become complicated and expensive as she works to avoid lead exposure for her 1-year-old daughter, Zayda, and 9-year-old son, Darius.
“I am very, very frightened for my kids,” Young, who was born and raised in Flint, said. “Every day I make sure to tell my son when he goes to school, ‘Do not drink the water.’ I always provide him with a bottle of water per day and I tell him, ‘Whenever you need to take a drink of water you just take a drink out of that bottle.’”
Young heats up 10 bottles of water on her stove to give her infant daughter Zayda a bath every other day. (Her bathtub and shower tap are older models than Mason’s and filters do not fit on them.) When Darius takes a shower in the tap water, she instructs him not to breathe in and only gives him five minutes before shooing him out. “That’s what we do to get baths around here,” Young said wearily. The state says it’s safe to bathe children in Flint water, but some medical experts disagree, warning that small children could swallow the water. (There is virtually no risk of lead entering the blood stream through the skin.) But Flint residents have long stopped listening to the state’s assurances of safety.
Making matters even more dire are Flint’s above-average water bills, which both mothers struggle to pay each month. Mason’s is usually around $130, while Young’s bill was more than $220 in December. They’ve paid thousands of dollars over the past year and a half for water they can’t even use, not counting the hundreds of dollars extra to buy bottled water. Mason, meanwhile, wonders whether the corrosive water may be destroying her appliances, and dreads the prospect of that expense. “Even General Motors can’t use the water in their plant,” Mason said, referring to the local plant’s October decision to stop using Flint water because it was corroding car parts. “What’s that doing to my home?”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said he couldn’t comment on the water crisis in Flint, Mich., Monday because he was not fully briefed on the situation.
Asked by a Detroit reporter in Coralville to comment on Democratic criticism of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s handling of the crisis, in which the city’s water supply has been contaminated with lead, Rubio demurred. “I didn’t watch the debate so I have no idea what they said,” Rubio said.
When the reporter asked whether he had an opinion on the water crisis and how Snyder was handling the situation, which has prompted a National Guard call-up and a federal emergency declaration, Rubio only said that the role of the federal government was limited in such situations
It is of course pertinent to ask Marco about Flint, what with his being such a water-enthusiast and all.
Marco Rubio told reporters Thursday that he had been briefed on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, before calling for accountability and solutions.
“It’s quite tragic, actually,” he said.
It’s the most any Republican presidential candidate has made about the situation that’s left thousands of young children facing damaging lead poisoning. Rubio stumbled over some of the finer points of the issue, calling the Flint River water source a lake and the contamination “potential lead poisoning.” (It’s been well documented by local doctors and outside researchers, though the state insists it’s not as widespread as researchers have found.)
Rubio’s statements came days after telling reporters he hadn’t yet been briefed on Flint and couldn’t answer questions. “That’s not an issue that right now we’ve been focused on,” he said on Monday.
Well NOW you’re focused Marco — right?
Cue The Standells