In the News

As questions about the long-term public health and economic impacts of high levels of lead in Flint, Mich., drinking water continue, a congressional delegation met with small businesses there to see how the crisis is affecting their companies.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, was one of the five House members to meet with some of Flint’s small businesses, and he said their concerns about the impact water is having on their livelihoods is apparent.

Some businesses put up signs indicating that they don’t use Flint water, or that they use filtered water. Many have seen declines in their revenue; one baker said her sales dropped from around $300 per day to $45. Others have closed. Many are also worried that their pipes will eventually be replaced but their reputations won’t recover, Peters said.

Despite the drop in sales and challenges ahead, some of Flint’s small-business owners remain optimistic and believe the city is headed for an economic recovery, he said.

“The businesses are tough; they don’t complain. They have every right to complain, but they don’t,” he said. “They were really bullish on Flint.”

Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat whose district includes Flint, said that many businesses are worried about their reputations as they try to make sure their homes and workplaces have safe water.

“Their big concern is dealing with the immediate needs to ensure clean water,” Kildee said. “An additional problem that we see is that people can become fearful, particularly of restaurants.”

Monday was the second time Kildee has led a tour of the city, but it was the first time a San Diego-area representative attended. Kildee said he’s trying to create support for the people of Flint as well as showing the impact of deteriorating infrastructure systems.

They also met with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and with people working at a water distribution center.

Peters spent a portion of his childhood in nearby Southfield, Mich., and has co-sponsored two bills Kildee introduced. One measure provides as much as $756 million in federal money for infrastructure repairs, public services, economic development initiatives and health monitoring in Flint. The other amends the Safe Water Drinking Act to require the EPA to notify the public of high lead levels in drinking water, improve information sharing between government agencies, and ensures that consumers are notified when water going through lead pipes could corrode.

Kildee said that the federal government needs to make sure that states and local governments vigorously enforce drinking water safety provisions.

Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Debbie Dingell, both D-Mich, and Reps. Steny Hoyer and Elijah Cummings, both D-Md., were also a part of the delegation.