Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State and local officials Friday unveiled a plan for fixing Flint’s water problems.

But one demand of many city residents is not on the list.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality director Dan Wyant addressed what he sees as the critical problem in Flint. 

“We know many residents are concerned about health and the health of their children. Many have lost confidence in the drinking water," Wyant told a midday news conference in Flint. "We need to build that back. We need to do more."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Recent studies have shown blood lead levels in Flint children have doubled, even tripled in some parts of town, since the city started using the Flint River as its drinking water source. 

So today Genesee County officials declared a public health emergency.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint officials are seriously looking at returning to Detroit water.

City Administrator Natasha Henderson is talking with the different groups needed to make the switch back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It took five Home Depot employees a couple trips to unload a pickup truck filled with dozens of cases of bottled water into a classroom at a Flint elementary school this afternoon. 

The donation was the largest, but far from the only, bottled water donation to Flint schools today. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint has issued an advisory for lead in city drinking water.

The advisory comes a day after local hospital officials announced blood lead levels in young children in Flint have doubled, and in some cases tripled, since the city started getting its drinking water from the Flint River in April of 2014.

Mayor Dayne Walling says city residents should take steps to reduce their lead exposure.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Amid growing concerns about Flint’s drinking water, federal, state and local elected leaders were briefed today in Lansing by federal and state environmental regulators. After the meeting, one prominent elected official called for more independent testing of Flint's drinking water.

Recent tests by researchers from Virginia Tech University have shown "serious" lead levels in a significant percentage of Flint homes. The tests showed lead levels in some homes at 15 parts per billion or higher. The researchers have advised many homeowners to stop drinking their tap water, especially if there are young children or pregnant women living there.

Marc Edwards, PhD, of Virginia Tech University holds two vials of water, one from Flint and the other from Detroit. The Flint water is noticeably cloudy.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This past week, researchers from Virginia Tech University were back in Flint to conduct more tests of the city’s tap water. 

A previous round of tests of nearly 300 homes found ‘serious’ lead levels in nearly one in five homes.  

That’s at odds with tests conducted by the city of Flint and overseen by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which didn’t show higher than acceptable levels of lead in the water. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality plans to respond Monday to a demand for answers about Flint’s water woes.

Last week, State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, and state Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, sent a letter to DEQ director Dan Wyant demanding answers to a list of questions about the safety and treatment of Flint’s drinking water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New tests show that possible changes to how Flint treats its drinking water may not solve a problem that could be creating "serious" lead levels in people's tap water.

Virginia Tech University researchers say a big part of the problem with Flint’s tap water is the corrosiveness of Flint River water.

They claim it’s 19 times more corrosive to lead solder used in pipes than the Detroit water it replaced.     

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A candidate for Flint mayor wants the federal government to investigate the city’s problem plagued water system and how city officials have responded to those problems.

Residents have complained about the city’s water since a switch last year from Detroit water to the Flint River as the source.

The latest concern has focused on lead levels. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By the end of this week, a team at Virginia Tech University may complete testing of water samples from 300 Flint homes. Preliminary tests have shown “serious” levels of lead in city water.

Professor Marc Edwards is a MacArthur fellow who has spent decades analyzing lead in municipal water supplies. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Critics say they have new reasons to demand the city of Flint go back to Detroit water.

“It’s time for us to stand up … speak up and tell this mayor to get out of town,” Pastor Allen Overton told a small crowd gathered outside Flint city hall on Monday. Overton and others are angry with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and other city leaders for the city’s problem-plagued water system. 

An internal memo from the Environmental Protection Agency is raising concerns about lead in Flint’s water.

MCM Management Corp.

Detroit is in the middle of one of the most ambitious demolition campaigns the nation has ever seen, tearing down about 200 houses every week.

Many of the homes being razed are in neighborhoods where people still live. So Detroit officials sat down before the blitz to come up with some new regulations designed to keep people safe from dust, and from hazardous materials that could be in that dust – like lead, or asbestos.

user Steven Depolo /Flickr

Childhood lead exposure costs Michigan about $300 million a year.

That's according to a report by the University of Michigan and the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

They recommend lead remediation projects for around 100,000 houses throughout the state at a cost of $600 million. They say the program would pay for itself in three years.

Paul Haan is executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. He says more remediation programs would be a good long-term investment for the state. 

“At the end of the day we’re going to continue to pay the cost of the problem of lead poisoning if older housing is not remediated,” said Haan.

“So the question we really need to ask ourselves is do we want to pay the increased cost of suffering the consequences, or do we want to pay the lower cost of remediation?”

About 70% of childhood lead exposure comes from lead-based paint in older homes.

Earlier this week, the state Legislature approved an additional $500,000 for lead hazard control in next year’s state budget. The change is pending approval from the governor.

Haan says this shows that “public will is building and that state leadership recognizes the need for the kind of investments called for in the report.” 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There‘s one kind of pollution that researchers believe robs kids of their future like no other.

Scientists have found evidence it diminishes their intelligence, causes behavioral problems, even increases the likelihood they’ll end up in prison.

This toxin’s damage is known.

We even know how to protect children from being exposed to it.

Yet tens of thousands of Michigan children are poisoned by lead every day.

Jessica Jeffries showed me the work that was done on her upper-floor apartment of a two-story house in Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s Mardi Gras time. But there’s a warning for people who want to ‘Let the Good Times Roll’.

People will go to great lengths to grab a necklace of Mardi Gras beads. But the Ecology Center’s Jeff Gearhart says they should think twice.

The Ann Arbor environmental group tested beads from different sources and found many contained high amounts of highly toxic substances,

Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say even low levels of lead in blood can affect a child’s IQ, their ability to pay attention and their performance in school. Kids are most often exposed to lead in paint in homes built before 1978.

Robert Scott is with the Michigan Department of Community Health. He says over the past several years, there’s been great progress in cleaning up lead contamination in old homes in the state. He says lead poisoning in kids in Detroit has dropped more than 70 percent since 2004.

“I do want to emphasize though, that with this steady decrease over the years, there are still pockets in Detroit and other places where the rates are still much higher,” says Scott.

Photo by Jeff Gearhart

By Julie Grant for The Environment Report

The U.S. has worked to get lead out of gas and out of paint, but the biggest source of lead in a consumer product is still on roadways. It’s in the form of wheel weights, used to balance the tires on our cars. The Environmental Protection Agency says about 1.6 million pounds of lead fall off of vehicles each year, and it winds up in the environment. A handful of states is leading the effort to ban lead wheel weights.

If you notice a wobble or vibration when you’re driving, it could mean you’ve lost a wheel weight. Jeff Gearhart is a researcher with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. He says wheel weights are about the size of your pinky finger, and there are usually one or two of them for each tire.

“If you look at the rubber part of the wheel, then there’s a metal part, and if you look carefully, then you’ll see a clip-on weight.”

Gearhart isn’t a traditional car guy. He cares about wheel weights because in most states, they’re made with lead. Gearhart says it’s easy to bump a curb, and lose a wheel weight. The EPA says 13% of them fall off. On the roads, the weights get crushed into dust. He says the lead winds up in the soil, in drinking water and ground water.

“Lead’s a neurotoxin, leads to learning disabilities, lower IQ. We don’t know of any safe level of lead exposure in the environment.”

New research from the University of Michigan reinforces why it’s important to keep kids from being exposed to lead.

It’s long been known that relatively high blood lead levels can negatively affect children’s IQ.

This study finds it can also affect a child’s motor skills.

Dr. Howard Hu, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan, studied children between the ages of three and seven in Chennai, India. Half the children studied had relatively high levels of lead in their blood. Those children tested significantly lower on motor skill tests… like using peg boards and copying pictures… than children with far less exposure to lead.

Dr. Hu says the Indian children’s blood lead levels are about two to three times that of American children. Lead is still a problem in Michigan, with children still being exposed to aging lead paint in homes, lead in pipes, and lead contamination in soil.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Lawsuits challenging emergency manager law start

Detroit's General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System have filed a lawsuit challenging the new emergency financial manager law.

From the Associated Press:

The City of Detroit's two pension boards have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the state's new emergency financial manager law, calling it unconstitutional.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press report the lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Detroit and names Gov. Rick Snyder and Treasurer Andy Dillon. The lawsuit claims that emergency financial managers could remove pension board members for no reason.

Snyder's office says the governor believes in the constitutionality of the law, otherwise he wouldn't have signed it.

Benton Harbor's Emergency Financial Manager, Joe Harris, was the first EFM to use broad new powers granted to him by the state.

Cleaning the lead out of Detroit homes

The federal government and private foundations will help fund a project to help get rid of environmental hazards in Detroit homes. From the Detroit Free Press:

The federal government will kick in $1 million to help make 100 homes in a targeted area of Detroit lead-free and safe from other hazards -- such as mold and radon -- and to train workers in environmental remediation techniques.

Deputy Secretary Ron Sims of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will present the funds to Mayor Dave Bing today.

The Freep reports that a study showed "60% of children in public schools in the city who scored below grade level on standardized state tests had lead poisoning."

Foundations, nonprofit partners, and state agencies are also expected to invest in the project.

Snyder to announce new leader for the Michigan Department of Corrections

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to make the announcement this morning. From the Detroit News:

Snyder selected Jackson County Sheriff Dan Heyns to run the department, which takes the largest share of general fund dollars in the state's budget, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Snyder will make the announcement publically later this morning at a news conference in the governor's press auditorium, across from the Capitol in Lansing.