Residents complained, but since the manager was appointed, they had no power to get rid of him or change his decision on the water source or its lack of treatment with an anti-corrosive agent which was a violation of federal law.
One of the consequences of the water problem in Flint ties us to them. Some of their kids got lead poisoned, just as many of our children were lead poisoned. Their children drank the tap water, brushed their teeth with it, had their food cooked with it, probably had formula made with it. The water in Flint was discolored, like rust and smelled bad, which reminded me of how the drinking water in Picher was and officials told the residents not to worry since color and odor are only aesthetics, not harmful. Harmful or not, a new drinking water well began to provide improved water, but only after they had made their complaints known publically.
Our children basically got lead poisoned because their yards, their playgrounds, their schoolyards, our alleys, the dust in their homes had lead and other heavy metals in it, so they breathed it in, it was on the tables, on the floors they crawled upon or dropped their binkies on. They got it on their hands and ate their sandwiches, their M &M's, they sucked their thumbs or bit their nails. Even if every child washed their hands well, in between, the dust was there waiting for them in many of their homes.
Lead poisoning is preventable, can be prevented and is being prevented in Ottawa County because yards are still being added to the list to be remediated because regular people get that it can be done for them, at no cost funded by EPA. There is a change happening. The next round of yard work will be done by contractors the Oklahoma DEQ hires, paid for by EPA. Just as EPA made some mistakes in their work, DEQ's work needs to be held to a high standard. We know there were several homeowners who had work done years ago by EPA that was not done well. They spoke up and most were compensated or work was redone to their satisfaction. EPA's work on the yard cleanup since then has left many very satisfied but a few homeowners are not. They spoke up, but not all issues have been corrected. We will keep asking, until all find the work is made right.
Bad work discourages others to have any work done at all. Lead poisoning is preventable, the lead that lies in our yards, in your neighborhoods will not go away. It is a heavy metal and will not budge until it is dug up and hauled away.
The people in Flint, Michigan are speaking up and they are finally being heard. The issue with their water will be resolved. It will not undo what has happened to their children. But because they spoke up and wanted clean water, clean water will be flowing and ultimately the infrastructure in that city of 100,000 people will be upgraded, with all the lead pipes removed, so there will be no way for lead poisoning to ever happen from use of tap water again.
The Mayor of Flint, the Governor and the President of the United States have all declared this situation an emergency. It is like the Tar Creek Superfund site, a man-made disaster. National Guard members are knocking on doors, filters are being delivered and installed on faucets, on shower heads, bottled water has been delivered. The emergency will pass, but the repercussions for the children who have been lead poisoned will be long lasting.
The emergency is still ongoing in Ottawa County, or EPA would not be still paying for our yards to be made safer. Or for the chat piles to be taken down. Lead poisoning has lasting effects, we have to continue to remember it is preventable. So let's get on with the prevention.
Prevention also means dealing safely with the countless homes and out buildings with deteriorated lead based paint, reminding our local officials to consider replacing old lead pipes still in use, and having our children screened for lead. It means eating healthy foods high in calcium that can protect us from lead poisoning and changing the way we deal with household dust, wet is always best, just as taking your shoes off at the door, also helps limit the amount you bring inside. It is simple, but prevention works. We know, we have lowered the lead levels of our children, but we have to keep doing it for the next batch of precious children coming along.