February 21, 2016
Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) visited Flint, Michigan with Rep. Dan Kildee and other Congressmembers to meet with residents and local business owners affected by the city’s ongoing water crisis. Rep. Peters, who spent much of his childhood in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, was also briefed by Dr. Lurie of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about federal response efforts and the resources still needed to address the crisis. Before entering public service, Rep. Peters practiced environmental law for 15 years and worked on clean water, habitat protection, and hazardous waste cleanup. See his full statement as prepared for delivery at today’s press conference below:
“I'm here today as a child of Michigan. My first memories were from my elementary school and Cub Scout troop in Southfield, getting Vernors ginger ale at my grandparents' house in Birmingham, and the Tigers winning the 1968 World Series. I also come as an environmental lawyer. Before I went into elected office, I practiced for 15 years working on clean water, habitat protection and hazardous waste cleanup. When I heard about Flint, I told my friend Dan Kildee that I wanted to help, and I thank him for his invitation today.
“In my career in environmental law, I learned that many toxic exposures take years to have an effect, and that people are able to recover from most exposures over time. But children exposed to metals often suffer permanent damage because their defenses against these poisons have not yet fully developed. I know from expert toxicology witnesses about the "blood-brain barrier" that forms in human beings at about age 6 and protects our brains from the effects of heavy metals like mercury and lead. Young children, like these children in Flint, have no defenses to these poisons. Their families are honest and hardworking and raising their kids to be the same, so they have a chance to succeed.
“Those are the "Midwestern values," I learned from Michigan. It is beyond me that we have gotten to the point in Michigan where we are not running to the aid of our neighbors in Flint, that we are not declaring that every child in America should have the right to grow up without worrying that the water we supply them is hurting them. Do we delay in ending this because these children are somebody else's children? They are not; they are our children. They are my children. They are America’s children. We must protect them and take care of them.”
In the afternoon, Rep. Peters and the group toured a water distribution site operated in partnership with the Michigan Muslim Community Council that is playing a critical role in getting clean water to Flint residents. Four other Members of Congress traveled to Flint, including Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-7), the Ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Michigan Congresswomen Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) and Debbie Dingell (MI-14).
Congressman Peters cosponsored and voted in favor of Rep. Kildee’s Safe Drinking Water And Improved Compliance Awareness Act, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this month. This measure strengthens requirements for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to notify residents when concentrations of lead in drinking water exceed actionable levels.
A study released in September 2015 revealed increased lead levels in Flint children and infants since the city had begun sourcing drinking water from the Flint River in April 2014. The water from the Flint River was corrosive and caused lead and other contaminants to leach into the drinking water.