Residents of Flint, Michigan who traveled to Chicago were barred from attending a private meeting Tuesday between Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other officials, who advocates say are rushing to declare the city's water supply safe.
Inside the summit, officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), as well as Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards, who is credited with exposing the lead contamination crisis, met with Snyder to discuss current sample data, ignoring testimony from residents.
"My eyes are still burning. I can't breathe when I get out of the shower...we're still melting here," Flint resident Tony Palladeno said in a recording aired on The Young Turks (TYT). Many residents have reported similar symptoms, particularly in regards to the city's shower water, which TYT host Cenk Uygur notes was not tested.
Synder, a Republican, has claimed that the water quality is improving and said the summit will allow experts to review all of the available data. But advocates are warning that current tests are not sufficient to declare the city's water free of dangerous contamination, and residents feel it is their right to be privy to the discussion.
"Tests that show the water is OK in one place don't mean that it will be OK in another place or that it will be OK the next day if it's tested in the same place," Laura Sullivan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Flint's Kettering University, told the Detroit Free Press.
For instance, in the city's schools, there has been an inconsistent effort to replace water fixtures and install filters.
The Detroit News reported:
The ACLU, citing information it obtained in a class-action lawsuit it filed against the state on behalf of Flint students, says that while drinking fountain fixtures have been replaced, sinks in school bathrooms have not been tested for lead or equipped with filters even though students could drink water from them.
A central kitchen used to prepare food for students throughout the district did not have water filters installed as of mid-November, the organization claims, and the state has not confirmed whether it completed plans to install filters in Northwestern High School, which tested for dangerously high lead levels in October.
"The history of what has happened in Flint is of the state doing as little as possible, and that is exactly what we are seeing in the public schools," Kary Moss, executive director of ACLU of Michigan, told reporters Monday. "These children have been neglected."
Further, as ACLU attorney Michael J. Steinberg explained, "the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires two, six-month rounds of testing before a determination can be made and even then, other factors must be considered."
"The mere fact that a couple of months of testing might bring the levels below 15 parts per billion does not mean the state is complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act," said Steinberg, who is litigating two lawsuits related to Flint's water. "Any suggestion by the state...that the water is safe is not only wrong, it's irresponsible."
On Wednesday evening, MDEQ is holding a town hall meeting in Flint. Watch the full TYT segment below: