“In November of 2014, my 14-year-old ended up getting sick and he was out of school for almost a month. As he was sick, at the tail end of him being sick, that’s when our water started coming through brown. So, we quit drinking it,” [said] Walters... Walters said she had a gut feeling that something was seriously wrong and she contacted the city... so, "they came in, they started testing,” Walters said.
When the tests showed elevated lead levels, Walters said she reached out to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In February 2015, after her concerns weren't addressed by the MDEQ, she contacted the Environmental Protection Agency.
“At that point, I got hooked up with Miguel Del Toral from the EPA and began talking with him about the lead, and we were talking to him and he actually seemed to care what I was saying,” Walters said.
Meanwhile, her family continued to experience medial problems. The worst was in one of her younger sons, Gavin.
“He was almost 4. He wasn’t gaining any weight. He was experiencing hair loss, he was experiencing lethargy,” Walters said.
A doctor determined Gavin had elevated levels of lead in his blood, even months after Walters had her family stop drinking the tap water.
“[What was] frustrating was knowing your child was poisoned, and three days later your mayor, who knew, going on TV drinking the water and telling us the water was safe,” Walter said.
Our of her frustration, she made contact with professor Marc Edwards, an expert in water quality at Virginia Tech University.
"I started doing independent testing with Virginia Tech, and 30 tests were done -- tests that were performed in accordance to the LCR [Lead and Copper Rule]. My average was 2500 parts per billion. My highest was 13,500 parts per billion. Hazardous waste is 5,000. Regardless of this information and the fact that my son had lead poisoning, the city and the MDEQ still continued to tell everyone the water was safe, as the EPA sat by and watched in silence.
Because the state and federal governments failed us, with the help of Virginia Tech, we conducted citizen-based samplings. We educated and distributed 300 samples equally throughout the city. We collected back 277 samples. All of this was done in a three week turnaround."
-- LeeAnne Walters
[LeeAnne Walters] who faced scorn as she tried to expose dangerous levels of lead in the water in Flint now is part of a nonprofit started to help area residents.
LeeAnne Walters said Monday the Community Development Organization, also known as C Do, will focus on “helping real people in crisis” amid “environmental injustices.” The Flint Journal reports organizers hope to raise $1 million for their efforts.
The announcement came two years to the date that Flint switched to treating water from the Flint River while awaiting completion of a new regional pipeline.