18:57 GMT05 August 2021
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    Officials with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knew about poisonous lead in the tap water in Flint, Michigan, as early as April, and did nothing about it.

    The agency’s top Midwest official told the Detroit News that while they knew about the lack of corrosion controls in Flint’s water supply, her hands were tied in bringing information into the public eye that could have protected Flint residents and their children.

    Since February, the EPA had been making inquiries with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. The two agencies argued for at least six months over whether the city needed to repair infrastructure so that the toxic lead would not enter the water supply. All the while residents were unaware they were being poisoned.

    “The EPA did not publicize its concern that Flint residents’ health was jeopardized by the state’s insistence that such controls were not required by law,” the Detroit News reported.

    The problem with Flint’s water began in April 2014, when the city stopped receiving its water from Detroit, instead shifting to water from the Flint River, which is known to have a high salt content. Corrosive salts in the water damaged the pipes, which contain lead, causing that material to be released into the water, and contaminating it.

    In October, the state changed the city’s drinking water source back from the corrosive Flint River to the Detroit water system.

    For half a year nothing was done. It was not until January that Governor Rick Snyder issued a state of emergency, declaring, "the health and welfare of Flint residents is a top priority and we're committed to a coordinated approach with resources from state agencies to address all aspects of this situation.”

    The effects of lead-poisoning cannot be reversed. Researchers at the nearby Hurley Children’s Hospital have identified a "rise in blood lead levels of children less than 5 years old" who live in the area.

    "Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” the World Health Organization states.

    Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha has been studying the rise of blood lead levels in children, stating that those numbers have doubled and, in some areas, tripled since the water supply was switched.

    "In five years, these kids are going to have problems with special education. They're going to have cognition problems," Hanna-Attisha told NBC. "Seven to 10 years, they're going to have behavioral problems."

    There are currently petitions circulating for the resignation, and even the arrest, of Snyder, but so far there has been no fallout to either federal, state, county or city environmental or water supply officials.

    Despite the change in the water supply, officials warn that the water in Flint remains unsafe safe to drink.


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