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Flint, Mich., Mother On How Water Crisis Affects Her Family

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Flint, Mich., Mother On How Water Crisis Affects Her Family

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Flint, Mich., Mother On How Water Crisis Affects Her Family

Flint, Mich., Mother On How Water Crisis Affects Her Family

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NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Jeneyah McDonald, a mother he met in Flint, Mich., in January, to check in with her about how the city's water crisis continues to affect her family.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to an issue that has been debated on the campaign trail and in Congress - the lead-contaminated water in Flint, Mich. In all the national shouting and finger pointing, it's easy to lose track of what this means for real people. That's why we've decided to keep in touch with one family living through it. Last month, I visited Flint and met the McDonalds. Jeneyah McDonald told me she is worried about her boys. Josaiah is 2 year old, and Justice is 6.

JENEYAH MCDONALD: They look OK today. What are they going to look like in five years, in 10 years? And at that point, where will all of these government officials and things be then when I'm dealing with the repercussions of that water?

SHAPIRO: Jeneyah McDonald is back on the line with us now. It's good to talk to you again.

MCDONALD: You too, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Well, first, I want to just ask how your boys are doing these days.

MCDONALD: They are doing well. Josaiah, actually, is going to start receiving services for his speech delay that he was diagnosed with, so I'm excited about that. And we're just looking forward to, you know, getting him the help that he's going to need.

SHAPIRO: When we visited, you were worried that he was maybe not developing as quickly as he should.

MCDONALD: That's right.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that's because of the lead?

MCDONALD: It's hard to say. I have a child that's not as developed as my first one, so I would want to, you know, say that water played some part in it.

SHAPIRO: And when we met you, you told us that your older son, Justice, had a rash - eczema - that you showed us on his wrists and on his face that you said had not gone away for a year.

MCDONALD: Yes.

SHAPIRO: And you were afraid that could also have been exacerbated by the toxins, the poisons in the water.

MCDONALD: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Is that still a problem?

MCDONALD: Well, it has calmed down a lot since I've been bathing him in bottled water. To me, that's proof in the pudding. If I go from using the tap water and he's really just so itchy and out of control that he's bloodying himself to now I'm using bottled water and he's no longer that way, to me, that's just common sense. It's the water.

SHAPIRO: The government's long-term solution to this problem in Flint involves replacing a lot of the pipes. Have you seen signs that that has started yet?

MCDONALD: At one house, yes, I did.

SHAPIRO: One house.

MCDONALD: Yeah, at one house.

SHAPIRO: Are you hopeful that things will get better, that eventually you will be able to bathe your kids with water from the tap or drink tap water?

MCDONALD: If I see pipes replaced throughout the whole city, then my hope will be restored. If I don't see that, then I'm not hopeful.

SHAPIRO: And what would that mean if that isn't done?

MCDONALD: You know, I'm going to stay here and fight for my city as long as I can, but I will not risk my children for it. It's a catch-22, Ari, because I also - it's hard to leave. If we leave, what if Josaiah can't get the cure that he needs because he was damaged by this water if I up and move somewhere else and they're not offering the type of care that the city of Flint community is going to give for their children because my baby deserves those services. This water damaged him. He deserves those services.

SHAPIRO: Jeneyah, it is so good to talk to you again. If it's OK with you, we'll keep checking in with you as this keeps unfolding.

MCDONALD: Absolutely. You guys have become like a part of the family (laughter).

SHAPIRO: That's Jeneyah McDonald in Flint, Mich.

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