Surreal stories surround the Flint water crisis

Wow! I mean wow! Every time you think the Flint water crisis can’t get any worse…

Boil water advisory adds to confusion over how to make Flint tap water safe to drink

Now the boil water advisory is nothing new. That’s just due to a water main break. Happens all the time. However, as I read the story, a couple things caught my eye. First was this.

Michael Hood started going door-to-door in Flint last month. The wilderness guide from the Ann Arbor area was part of a newly formed group called Crossing Water, and they wanted to see what they could do to help people in Flint.

“Most folks have heard that the water is not safe to drink, but not everybody,” Hood said.

It might seem crazy, Hood says, with the Internet and 24-hour cable news, that some people in Flint still don’t know about potentially dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water. But, Hood points out, there are a lot of people who can’t afford Internet or cable, who don’t speak English, who cannot read.

OK. Seems reasonable. What’s the solution when you have people that don’t have media access, don’t speak english and don’t read?

Hood was dumbfounded that no official agency seemed to be addressing this common misconception. So his group jumped into action, working with some billboard companies, TV and radio stations, to get the message out: Boiling your water will not remove lead.

Post billboards they can’t read, run TV ads they can’t see and air radio ads they can’t understand. Way to go guys. Great plan.

Then the story tried to personalize the issue and interviewed a local painter, James Todd. The DEQ had stopped by his house and left info about lead poisoning. Todd was a bit skeptical.

“I read something about vacuuming your floors. That vacuuming your floors will actually cause lead dust now. Well, where’s that coming from on my floors? How’d it get on my floors?”

Todd flips through some paperwork on his kitchen table that the state officials left.

“Maybe it was in here I read it,” he says, pausing to read from a pamphlet about lead exposure.

“Oh yeah, here it is, it says ‘use doormats, take your shoes off when indoors. Vacuuming carpets may pull more lead dust to the surface, so use a non-motorized sweeper to clean carpets,” Todd reads from the pamphlet.

“I don’t have non-motorized carpet cleaner. Maybe they’ll have them at the fire department pretty soon too, you know?” Todd says, laughing a little, before continuing, “clean window sills and wipe play areas down with paper towels and soapy water.

“This is the paperwork from the guy who just left my house, just before you got here.”

Todd owns his own painting business. He served in the Navy. He watches the news. He got the results from his first lead test after spotting a map of the city’s latest test results on social media and searching for it. He’s even had multiple visits from various officials and volunteers. He’s no dummy. And still, he’s confused about how to protect his family from lead in Flint.

What? This guy owns his own painting business and has never heard of the hazards of lead paint? The hazards of lead dust and the methods of transmission throughout a home? And he’s no dummy? He’s making the assumption that the lead in his water is somehow making it to his floor and window sills? Scary!

Lead is known to impair cognitive thinking. It would appear it’s had an effect.