Diverse Coalition Asks Congress to Fund Water Infrastructure in Flint

Safe Drinking Water for Flint a National Priority

WASHINGTON (September 8, 2016) – Today, 64 community, social justice, civil rights, faith, public health, labor, and environmental groups from Flint, Michigan and across the country called on Congress to provide federal aid to Flint and other communities with elevated levels of lead in tap water.

As many as 12,000 children in Flint may have been exposed to lead by drinking the city’s tap water. The problem occurred after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager for Flint, who changed the city’s source of water to the Flint River to save money. The river water corroded the plumbing, causing aging pipes to leach lead into the water.

No amount of lead exposure is safe, and lead is particularly damaging for children’s developing brains. Some homes in Flint had water with lead levels more than 850 times the level the EPA considers unsafe.

The letter asks Congress to move quickly to help solve the environmental and public health disaster that followed and to help minimize the impact of lead and other health threats to Flint’s citizens.

The Senate is currently planning to vote on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) as early as this week. The current version of WRDA includes $100 million for improving Flint’s water infrastructure and it allocates $4.8 billion for programs under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The DWSRF provides loans and other financial assistance to water systems to improve their drinking water infrastructure while the CWSRF lends financial support for water quality infrastructure projects and can help improve source water protection. The House has yet to take up the water resources bill or enact any measure providing funding for Flint.

Next Wednesday, a group of community leaders from Flint, including its Mayor, will travel to Washington to press for urgent congressional action, holding a press conference outside the Capitol as well as meeting with senior members of the Obama Administration.

Here’s what some of the letter signers had to say:

Frances Gilcreast, President of the Flint Branch, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

"When will partisan politics end when it comes to the health and welfare of the Flint residents? We are still drinking bottled and filtered water nearly three years after the citizens were poisoned by our own state government. The federal government has a moral obligation to ensure the remediation of this man-made disaster."

Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

“The inaction and uncoordinated response of the local and state government to respond to the water crisis in Flint further exacerbated the problem for the city's residents. As we continue to uncover the devastating long-term effects of contaminated water on the Flint population, Congress has the opportunity to provide relief by approving legislation that would provide 100 million dollars in infrastructure funding to ensure that the residents of Flint have access to clean water in the future."

Harold Harrington, Business Manager, UA Local Union 370, Flint, Michigan

“It has been nearly a year since the water crisis in Flint became national news and the tap water is still not drinkable without a properly installed filter. It is critical that the Senate swiftly pass the Water Resources Development Act. Doing so will provide some of the funds necessary to deal with this crisis and to start to address the much needed improvement of our water infrastructure. We have waited long enough.”

Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation

“Every American family should expect safe, clean drinking water flowing from their tap. But in Flint and too many other communities across the county, the drinking water is contaminated with lead or other toxins. By investing in effective existing programs, we can solve this crisis and ensure that every American family has access to healthy drinking water.”

Scott Slesinger, Legislative Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

''When members of Congress discovered lead in the drinking water in the Cannon House Office Building, they acted swiftly to protect themselves. But not so with Flint. It's a national embarrassment -- and an outrage.”

Andrew Sarpolis, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club Michigan Campaign

"Our federal lawmakers must act and must act immediately to help the residents of Flint. Every American has the right to clean water, but for far too long the funding needed to help fight Flint's water crisis has been hung up on Capitol Hill -- leaving thousands of vulnerable families in a dangerous lurch. It's time for Congress to step up and pass a funding bill that the people of Flint deserve. There is no time to waste." 

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director, Environmental Defense Fund
“Government failed Flint residents, especially the children, at many levels. Now we owe it to Flint to help them recover and we owe it to children around America to take action now to protect them from lead.”

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