Flint families press Congress for lead compensation

Keith Laing
DetroitNews-Unknown

Washington — Three Flint families are pushing Congress to establish a compensation fund for victims of the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

The families say that the city’s 100,000 residents should be able to access a compensation fund that is similar to the one that was set up for first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to make up for the hardships they still are experiencing from the water crisis.

“It’s been just a constant headache dealing with the water, wall-to-wall (bottled) water,” said Vance Griffis, who said his daughters Kareemah, 6, and Yanni, 14, have tested positive for lead.

“Having to get up and brush your teeth with the (bottled) water every morning, because when I wake up every morning, I think bottled water now to brush the teeth, to take the bath,” he added. “Then they’re talking about cutting the (bottled) water (distribution) down, all which is ridiculous.”

Griffis said a compensation fund “should be a given” with Gov. Rick Snyder and the mayor of Flint “...because of the simple fact it is a mistake they all made.”

Griffis’ family was one of three that traveled to Washington on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers about the possibility of setting up the compensation fund. They met with U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Rep. Dan Kildee, D- Flint Township.

Stabenow said discussions with the families included expanding Medicaid for children and providing Ready to Feed formula for mothers.

“During the meeting, we reiterated our support for the state of Michigan to create a future fund to compensate victims affected by this terrible crisis,” Stabenow said.

Peters promised to “continue working to secure federal resources to help upgrade infrastructure and expand critical services like Head Start.”

“The state of Michigan has a responsibility to ensure Flint families, especially children who were exposed to lead, have the support and resources they need to rise above this tragedy, and that includes setting aside sufficient resources in a reserve fund to meet the long-term health and educational needs of Flint's children,” said Peters.

Kildee, meanwhile, said “the Flint water crisis is an ongoing public health emergency and the residents of Flint are American citizens and deserve help from both their state and federal government.”

Melissa Lightfoot of Flint said the grades of her daughters Kamryn, 8, and Payton, 5, have dropped and they have exhibited behavioral issues since they were exposed to lead in the city’s containment water.

“For everybody else, water is something you don’t think much of, because you go to your faucet for a cup of water, you can just go on about your day,” she said. “For us, we’re not able to do that. We have to go ‘Oh, I have to go to my basement and get another thing of bottled water because we used all the ones that we had.’”

Lightfoot said she feels like the Flint water crisis has been “swept under the rugs like this is not a problem.

“It’s basically that they said our lives doesn’t matter,” she said.

Luke Waid said his 2-year-old daughter Sophia has tested positive for lead since she was 6 months old. Doctors threatened to report her condition to Child Protective Services before lead was discovered in the Flint water supply, he said.

“At her one year check up ... they told us they were going to send out Child Protective Services,” he said. “That was a nightmare in itself.”

Waid said his daughter has exhibited “constant irritability” since she was exposed to lead.

“She gets mad at herself,” he said. “One minute she’ll be normal, the next minute she’s off the hook and running. It’s hard to say with her being an adolescent, but I can definitely tell a difference in her and my other friend’s children.”

Waid added that his monthly water bill has increased from $78 per month to $143 monthly, which he said was attributed by city officials to leakage in the Flint water system.

Paul Napoli, a lawyer who is representing the Flint families, is leading a class-action lawsuit for victims of the contaminated water that has been filed in Genesee County Circuit Court with the NAACP.

Napoli, who represented the Sept. 11 first responders in their push for compensation, said Tuesday “it’s certainly billions of dollars that would be required” to repay victims of the contaminated Flint water.

“The infrastructure around the United States we keep hearing is falling apart, which is bridges, streets, highways,” he said. “Well the water system is a great place to start, and in Flint is a great place to start.”

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing