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The Women of Flint: This is Just Beginning

The Flint community faces lifelong repercussions from the water crisis. (Pixabay)
The Flint community faces lifelong repercussions from the water crisis. (Pixabay)
March 8, 2016

FLINT, Mich. - The Michigan women who fought to expose the toxic lead in Flint's water say their efforts to protect the community are just getting started.

In response to the crisis, state and federal investigations are under way, and millions of dollars to assist residents is expected from Michigan lawmakers and Congress.

But local faith leader Bishop Bernadel Jefferson says a whole city is contaminated by lead and there will be life-long repercussions.

"We're going to work together on a united front working with those all over the United States and working (to) make sure the money that comes into this city that it be utilized in the right way," says Jefferson.

Lead poisoning is linked to developmental and behavioral problems, and a spike in cases of Legionnaire's disease in Flint recently came to light.

Jefferson says other issues include figuring out the disposal of the plastic water bottles coming into the city, fixing Flint's corroded pipes, and ensuring residents have access to safe, healthy water.

Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha has been a national and international voice in the crisis, and has met with congressional leaders and Environmental Protection Agency officials.

But she says it's time to flip the story.

Hanna-Attisha is among those at Hurley Medical Center who are creating a public pediatric health initiative focusing on the fallout.

"We cannot sit back and just see," says Hanna-Attisha. "We have to try to intervene early for these children, so we are actively working on this initiative, getting the resources we need so that our children have a brighter future tomorrow."

Flint mom Melissa Mays launched the "Water You Fighting For?" group to ensure people are not kept in the dark. When people don't think they are getting the truth, she says, they need to stand up and start digging.

"It was started by citizens, it was pushed through by citizens, and we are still the ones helping each other," says Mays. "We are the ones taking the water donations door to door. We are the ones getting the information out. It has been 100 percent citizen driven."

Vice President of Michigan NOW Nina Muckenthaler says the crisis has had a huge economic, health and social effect on the community, and these women will be honored at the organization's upcoming April conference.

"The people of Flint are strong and they're fighting back and they're fighting for justice for Flint," Muckenthaler says. "And these brave women are the ones who started it all, and we commend them for the work that they've done."

Flint women also are involved in a myriad of lawsuits related to the crisis in local, state and federal courts.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI