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Front Page Talking Points


Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

Undrinkable water in Flint, Mich., is a signal of health risks from old lead pipes in other cities


1.gifLook for an update on this situation and share a quote that describes it.

2.gifRead coverage of a local city or state government issue. Summarize the key points.

3.gifUsing a photo or article, identify another basic need that we may take for granted until something goes wrong.

A U.S. House committee heard last week from federal and state officials dealing with a drinking water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. Lead has contaminated the city's water since a cost-saving switch in April 2014 from Detroit’s system to the Flint River as an interim step while a pipeline from Lake Huron is built. Improper treatment procedures let the corrosive water release lead from old pipes, causing a severe health risk – especially for youngsters.

State environmental officials and the federal Environmental Protection Agency learned of the problem last year, but initially minimized it and didn’t alert the public. Flint residents complained for months about the taste, smell and appearance of their water, but officials assured them it was safe. Tests later found elevated lead levels in the blood of local children. Gov. Rick Snyder, who recently apologized for his response, early last month declared an emergency in the auto manufacturing city that has fallen on hard times. He requested federal help, which the president promptly authorized. Residents, businesses and schools are relying solely on bottled water. At the same time, the FBI is looking into possible misconduct by officials who oversaw water testing and may have altered the results.

The Washington inquiry by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform focused on the state and federal inaction that left Flint residents unaware of the lead risks for months, even though warnings and evidence were offered by a local doctor, an environmental engineering professor from Virginia and an investigative reporter. ""This was a state failure," Rep. Dan Kildee, who grew up in Flint, told the hearing. "The governor should write a check tomorrow. . . . Make it right for these kids."

The situation raises concerns beyond Michigan. "Flint . . . offers a cautionary tale to several other aging cities nationally," says a report from the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy center. Others also wave caution flags:

  • “Unless officials invest in upgrades to the nation's infrastructure, other predictable surprises wait for Americans," warns business professor Daniel Bergstresser of Brandeis University near Boston.
  • "The EPA has completely turned its gaze away from this,” says Yanna Lambrinidou, a Virginia Tech science professor studying lead contamination of tap water. "It's an horrendous situation. The system is absolutely failing."
  • ”Similar circumstances afflict marginalized municipalities populated by marginalized people across the nation. Some of the most vulnerable communities are small post-industrial cities, like Flint."– Jake Blumgart, Philadelphia reporter and researcher

Governor says: "Government failed you. I am sorry I let you down. We will not stop working for the city of Flint until every single person has clean water." – Rick Snyder in State of the State address

Congresswoman says: "The situation in Flint represents a crisis of leadership on all levels, and we must ensure that we take the appropriate steps to ensure that similar situations do not occur elsewhere." – Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., member of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Doctor says: "We couldn't believe that in 2016 now, in the middle of the Great Lakes, we couldn't guarantee a population access to good drinking water." – Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha of Flint hospital, who helped raise awareness

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2016
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