People in the audience stood up at times to cheer or jeer, depending on who was speaking or what was being said.
Lee-Anne Walters is a Flint mom who tried to call attention to tests that showed high lead levels in her drinking water. Walters says one of her children asked if he was going to die because of the lead in the water. She says it’s still hard not to get emotional. “They just turned five last week. I have twins,” she said, her voice breaking. “One’s 56 pounds. One’s 35. He hasn’t grown in a year." Walters called the water crisis “poisoning by state policy.” She told how her family suffered from rashes, hair loss, and other health issues.
City and county officials say they hold the state Department of Environmental Quality primarily responsible for the mistakes that caused lead to leach into the water. A Genesee County health official also called for creating an independent state public health ombudsman.
And a senior Flint water official says he asked for more staffing for his department and a slower pace on changing the source of drinking water while Flint was under the control of state-appointed emergency managers. “My opinion didn’t matter,” Mike Glasgow told the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Public Health Emergency. He said an e-mail to state environmental regulators outlining his objections was ignored. He said his job got tougher as the number of people employed by the water department dropped from 40 in 2005 to 26 at the time of the water switch in 2014.
Doctor Mona Hanna-Attisha is a Flint pediatrician who was ignored and criticized by state officials when she revealed evidence of high lead levels in drinking water. She says the state now owes a debt to the children who were exposed to lead. “There is no way to predict which child is going to have which problem which is why we have to do everything for all children,” she said.
She said that includes getting more Flint families onto food assistance and school programs to deal with the effects of lead exposure. “This is not a throwaway generation,” she said. “Our children are going to be fine, but they’re going to be even better if we invest in them now, and we provide them with the additional resources, the additional wraparound resources so we can mitigate the effects of the exposure.
People at the hearing say they mostly blame state regulators for the mistakes that led to lead in the water, and they blame the emergency manager law for a lack of accountability to local voters. Genesee County’s public health chief also called for creating an independent state public health ombudsman.