Did you hear that the Flint water crisis is over? Nothing could be further from the truth. President Obama’s attempt to prove the water’s safety by drinking it on national television left many Flint residents confused and angry. Right now, pregnant women and children under age six are still being warned not to drink the water. How safe is it? Many Flint residents are relying on bottled water to bathe, cook, and brush teeth. Flint’s old leaded pipes are a long way from being replaced. The chemicals being used to seal pipes are showing problems. Flint’s residents are rightly anxious about the safety of the water.
The early signs which concerned moms and dads noticed included hair loss, sudden skin rashes, abdominal pain. They knew something was wrong, but for many parents, learning that the child was lead poisoned was much worse than anything else they had imagined. The heartbreak continued as they found that their kids were now at high risk for ADHD, low IQ, among other long-term health effects. Here is one mother’s story:
‘I’m not taking a bath . . . it hurts my skin.’ The evening struggle begins again for a mom whose child refuses to bathe. The contaminated water was causing her young son’s rash. ‘I took him to the doctors. I was told to keep his skin clean and to bathe him every night. The doctor said he had contact dermatitis from something like laundry soap, bar soap, or something else he comes in contact with. I never thought water from my faucet could be hurting my baby.”
Oversight responsibility over city water is the local government’s job. Local government is required to report to the state, which is overseen by the federal EPA water division. One breakdown in oversight is bad, but a break down at every level means somebody or everybody is slacking on the job and does not care.
Sasha Khokha, a journalist from California National Public Radio has a different distressing story. After she heard about the water crisis in Flint, she decided to check her tap water. When she reviewed her water bill from the city of Fresno, she read the “consumer confidence report” for drinking water. Sasha read the footnote in small print: ‘123 Trichloropropane (1,2,3 TCP) has been detected in 29 wells in Fresno…. Some people who use water containing it over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer, based on studies in laboratory animals.’
Fearing for her two children, she decided to get her water tested for the presence of chemicals. The sample from Sasha’s kitchen tap showed 2.2 parts per trillion, three times the state’s public health goal for 1,2,3-TCP. Twenty-five years after California declared 1,2,3-TCP to be a carcinogen, drinking water regulators are only now planning to set a standard for drinking water.
And it’s not just Fresno. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, the chemical has been found in about a hundred public water systems across California, mostly in the Central Valley, but also in counties like Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
We have do better as a country, every person deserves safe drinking water – it is a human right.