Newly-elected Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency on Monday over elevated lead content levels, connected to a problem with the city’s tap water system, that have been found in blood tests of local children.
A September study by Hurley Medical Center found a “rise in blood lead levels of children less than 5 years old living within Flint zip codes 48501-48507 after the switch to Flint River water as the source.”
The city disconnected from Detroit’s water system in 2014 and began drawing tap water from the Flint River in an effort to save on costs. The switch led to a rise in complaints by residents saying that their tap water had taken on a foul odor and cloudy appearance.
On Oct. 8, in the wake of Hurley Medical Center’s study, Republican Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder provided $12 million from the state’s budget to assist Flint in reconnecting to Detroit’s water system. Gov. Snyder’s press secretary David Murray told The Washington Post that even though Flint’s water system has been disconnected from the Flint River, “some families with lead plumbing in their homes or service connections could experience higher levels of lead in the water that comes out of their faucets” due to corrosion remaining in the system.
“Lead at any level can be associated with decreases in IQ, behavioral disorders, even an association with certain juvenile delinquency as these children get older,” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive Dr. Eden Wells said in comments to CBS News.
Parents of children with elevated blood-lead levels have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against state and city officials for swapping their safe Detroit-supplied water with less-expensive-but-toxic Flint River water.
“I am requesting that all things be done necessary to address this state of emergency declaration, effective immediately,” Mayor Karen Weaver said on Monday according to MLive. Her state of emergency declaration seeks state and federal funding to deal with problems that she feels will arise in the future due to the exposure of local children to lead in tap water. She called on the federal government to send funds for special education, mental health, and criminal justice resources to assist in addressing those issues.