Flint lawmaker: Water is a human right

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LANSING (WJRT) - (11/12/15) - We drink it and use it to cook and bathe, but a group of lawmakers say too many Michiganders don't have access to clean and affordable water.

A Flint representative says that has to change.

State Rep. Sheldon Neeley, (D) Flint, said Flint's Water Emergency points to problems that need to be addressed immediately before more people are hurt.

"The moral compass of the state of Michigan - it starts here today with these bills," Neeley said.

Neeley, joined by other lawmakers from Detroit and surrounding communities, said water is a human right and too many families can't afford it or can't trust its safety.

"They talk about 'Pure Michigan', 'Pure Michigan.' But inside the city of Flint, residents have not been experiencing a 'Pure Michigan,'" Neeley said.

The representative argues TTHM and lead issues in Flint, matched with high costs, often lead to water shutoffs and other struggles.

"The stories were unbelievable of children having to go to school who hadn't brushed their teeth, hadn't had showers and had no water to drink other than what they got in a jug," said State Rep. Julie Plawecki, (D) Dearborn Heights.

The group of lawmakers who gathered at the Capitol on Thursday want more cost-measures in place with help from Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services.

"To make sure they actually develop a water affordability program, to make sure if you're low-income, the water rate is based on your household income," said State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D) Detroit.

The lawmakers have introduced a series of bills hoping to fix what they see as problems with costs, quality, testing and access.

Neeley's bill calls for changes in water testing, including doing away with pre-flushing methods used by the state.

"Make it uniform, the way the DEQ and the EPA test water and how they alert residents in the state of Michigan when there is a problem with water quality," Neeley said.

Other bills would create reforms to the shutoff process and prevent certain groups of people from losing service.

"As we sat in front of these lawmakers and they broke down into tears, we knew we were finally starting to get somewhere," said Flint resident Melissa Mays.

Mays, a mother of three, has been on the forefront of the city of Flint's water concerns for the last year after her family became ill.

"They listened to us, and they're covering the transparency, the testing, the quality, the shutoffs and all of these things," Mays said. "I think that's an awesome step forward."

The bills are expected to be talked about in various committees next week.

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