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Efforts continue to quell the backlash over President Donald Trump’s changing statements on the Russia summit. Also on the Thursday rundown: protestors are out for Mike Pence’s visit to Missouri; and nobody wants to go, but one option is green burials.

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The Women of Flint: Warriors of the Water Crisis

The women of Flint got the ball rolling on the response to the city's poisoned water. (Michigan NOW)
The women of Flint got the ball rolling on the response to the city's poisoned water. (Michigan NOW)
March 7, 2016

FLINT, Mich. - Whether it was the foul smell and brown color or the resulting rashes and hair loss, many Flint residents were immediately concerned after city switched its water source in April 2014.

But it was a study months later that finally opened eyes.

Hurley Medical Center Pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's discovery of what she calls a "frightening" increase in lead levels in the children of Flint is credited as a pinnacle moment in the controversy.

But she says those who fought from the beginning are the true heroes of the story.

"They messed with the wrong mommas," says Hanna-Attisha. "Leane Walters, her lead water in her water exceeded toxic-waste levels and she never stopped fighting. Another strong momma, Melissa Mays, mobilized a lot of grassroots support. Another amazing women, Nayyirah Shariff, a community activist. The mayor, Karen Weaver, she's the one that declared the state of emergency."

Hanna-Attisha contends it was the actions of these women, along with other folks on the ground, that finally got the ball rolling on the government's response and elevated the crisis into the national spotlight.

Melissa Mays says despite her concerns and those of other Flint residents, it wasn't until January of 2015 that notification arrived stating chemicals that are a byproduct of disinfection were in the water. But she notes officials continued to claim the water still was safe for most people.

"When they told us that it could cause cancer, that was when we started protesting and started digging in more," says Mays. "We started having our water tested and found out that there were high levels of lead in several people's homes. So that's when we went on this whole mission to expose the truth."

As soon as she suspected the water was tainted, Bishop Bernadel Jefferson of Faith Deliverance Center Church has worked to educate others and help the community cope.

She believes the voices of Flint are continually muted, but adds people such as local activist Claire McClinton won't quit speaking out for what's right.

"There have been women on the forefront that would not give up," says Jefferson. "That would not shut up, because it concerned our babies, it concerned our children, it concerned those mothers that were pregnant, it has affected and hindered women that have made them infertile."

In part two of our series tomorrow, we'll learn more about how the women of Flint will keep fighting to protect the community.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI