'Not a Throwaway Generation': Flint Doctor Says City's Kids Deserve Help
Water treatment supervisor recalls being told by state's environmental department not to use anti-corrosive additives in water pipes
Flint children who have been impacted by the city's water contamination emergency are not a "throwaway generation" and should be helped, the pediatrician who helped uncover the lead poisoning crisis said Tuesday.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha told the state's special Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency that increasing children's access to "proper nutrition, medical care, developmental testing, and early intervention" could help address the long-term impacts of the city's water crisis, according to the Flint Journal.
"This is not a throwaway generation," Hanna-Attisha told the committee. "Our children are going to be fine, but they're going to be even better if we invest in them now."
"We need so much to give to these children now so they don't have the consequences," she said. "Everybody is impacted differently and part of the anxiety with lead is we'll never know that lead directly caused this."
Hanna-Attisha's research helped uncover high levels of lead in Flint children's blood last year, but she noted on Tuesday that even medical tests would not be able to determine the true extent of the crisis, as lead is only detectable in the blood for 20-30 days—but the damage lasts forever.
"Everybody should be under the assumption that their child was potentially exposed," Hanna-Attisha said. "That does not mean that children, all these children are going to have problems."
The testimony comes shortly after Hanna-Attish described in a January interview with Democracy Now! how the Flint government initially attempted to discredit her findings.
Meanwhile, a former Flint water treatment plant supervisor recalled to the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday how Michigan officials instructed him not to add anti-corrosive chemicals to the pipes, shortly before the state started drawing its water from the Flint River in April 2014.
The AP writes:
Mike Glasgow, the plant's laboratory supervisor at the time, says he asked district engineer Mike Prysby of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality [DEQ] how often staffers would need to check the water for proper levels of phosphate, a chemical they intended to add to prevent lead corrosion from the pipes. Prysby's response, according to Glasgow: "You don't need to monitor phosphate because you're not required to add it."
Recalling the meeting Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press, Glasgow said he was taken aback by the state regulator's instruction; treating drinking water with anti-corrosive additives was routine practice. Glasgow said his gaze shifted to a consulting firm engineer in attendance, who also looked surprised.
"Then," Glasgow said, "we went on to the next question."
In a report last week, a task force investigating the water crisis concluded that the state was "fundamentally accountable," in part for the DEQ's instruction not to utilize the corrosion controls, the AP said. The DEQ later said it had "misread" the rules of water regulation.
Lee-Anne Walters, a Flint resident who helped draw initial attention to the crisis, told the AP that news of the interaction between Glasgow and Prysby made her "nauseous."
"That one meeting was the difference between this city being poisoned and not being poisoned," she said.