Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Mayor of Flint wants Reparations

Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, Michigan. (AP/Cliff Rogers)
Karen Weaver was elected Mayor of Flint, Michigan, November 2015, after promising to solve the water crisis.  In a recent interview Weaver was asked about solutions for Flint:

Are there reparations due for all of that as well?

Well yeah, that’s the whole plan that we’re putting in place. We’re asking for money for those kinds of things. That’s exactly what we’re doing for all of those kinds of services and support for these children and families. That $28 million that the governor gave is not enough. It’s nowhere near enough. [link]

Understand that lead does not come primarily from a lead pipe based water supply - in fact, this source is rarely the primary source of lead poisoning in children and adults in the US.  According to the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan,  Federal and state money, and foundations consistently pour money into programs across Michigan that help pay for eliminating lead sources in older homes when a family cannot afford to pay for the work themselves. In the last 10 years, those programs have paid for lead abatement in 1,500 homes across western Michigan. Still, an estimated 60,000 homes need lead abatement.

The source of poisoning in most areas of Michigan has traditionally been old lead paint on homes built before 1978 and lead residue in dust and soil. Young children are significant'y more susceptible to ground based exposure where the most common sources of lead are found -- they crawl on their hands, pick up dust and dirt and put their hands in their mouths.

The doctor who first raised red flags about the lead levels in children, Hanna-Attisha, was recently quoted as saying, “We need funding to expand Head Start programming".  Head Start has been tasked with ensuring tests to determine blood levels in children since at least 2008.  Medicaid has required such testing for even longer.  Dr. Attisha works for Hurley Hospital which signed off on compliance with medicaid mandated regulations for the year of 2014.

All pediatricians are encouraged to test all children ages 1 and 2 for lead.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) require that all low-income, Medicaid-eligible children be screened for lead toxicity using a blood test.  Even with this government mandate, reports found that only 20 percent of Medicaid-eligible children had received any screening blood lead tests.  Medicaid-eligible children represent approximately 60 percent of all children in this country with lead poisoning

Medicaid spending 2015 for Michigan: .$13,581,206,280.  

In Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, more than 10 percent of children tested have a positive test in 2014. That was nearly 1,000 of the 7,263 children tested, or 13.5 percent.  Yet, all of these zip codes are served by the Detroit Water System, the same system Flint, Michigan switched from in 2014.  

DWSD Water Quality Report - 2015 - found 1.3 ppb in their testing in 2014.  If these tests are accurate, how is it possible that water quality could be the culprit for the blood levels in 10% of all the children in the above cited areas?  Also, please note that DWSD draws their water from the Flint River as well - even though all major news outlets state their water is drawn only from Lake Huron. 

In Grand Rapids, nearly 1 in 10 children of those tested in four ZIP codes tested positive for lead in 2014.

Grand Rapids tested water contamination levels in 2012, their report revealed:
"No contaminants were detected at levels that violated federal drinking water standards. However, some contaminants were detected in trace amounts that were below legal limits. The table that follows shows the contaminants that were detected in trace amounts last year. (Some contaminants are sampled less frequently than once a year; as a result, not all contaminants were sampled for in 2014. If any of these contaminants were detected the last time they were sampled for, they are included in the table along with the date that the detection occurred.)"
The last test for Lead was 8/28/2012 and 0 (ppb) were found, so the water was not tested for lead in 2014.  The most frequent cause of lead in water, according to the Grand Rapids water site, is "corrosion of household plumbing systems; Erosion of natural deposits."

"Every week there are more kids on” a weekly statewide report on elevated lead levels, said Paul Haan of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, which works to eliminate household dangers to make children safer and healthier. Parts of Grand Rapids have some of the highest concentrations of children with lead, he said.

Again, with lead levels much higher in other cities Michigan cities, and even higher in many other states, why is Flint the epicenter for the sudden focus and government intervention?

Latest development: Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said at a news conference Wednesday that Marc Edwards will oversee all water testing done by the state and federal governments. She added he will be "fully independent," report to her and get paid through private donations. She also touched on the issue of Flint residents' water bills. Supplemental funding approved by the state House last week included $3 million to help residents pay their bills.