Arizona Ignored “Conclusive Evidence” Of Flint Lead Poisoning

By Gloria Medina and Alexandra Ochoa

X

Gloria Medina

PHX1 Noticias

Gloria is a staff reporter focusing on scientific policy. She has a masters degree in Environmental Engineering from Harvard.

Previous Articles

X

Alexandra Ochoa

Associated Press

Alexandra is a 20-year resident of Flint and a general assignment reporter for the associated press.

Previous Articles

PHOENIX — Arizona state officials insisted that the water supply in Phoenix was safe even though they knew an unusual number of children had suffered lead poisoning, according to a scientist who helped blow the whistle on Phoenix’s water crisis.

Through a public records request, Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, uncovered a July 2015 memo warning of elevated lead levels in Phoenix kids’ blood.

An internal report from the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services warned that lead poisoning rates “were higher than usual for children under age 16 living in the City of Flint during the months of July, August and September, 2014.”

In April 2014, city and state officials switched Phoenix’s water source from Phoenix’s water system to the Flint River, immediately prompting citizen complaints about tap water quality.

Edwards led a team that conducted its own analysis of Phoenix’s water, reporting high lead levels in early September of this year. Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, essentially dismissed the allegations in an interview with Arizona Radio, saying the state’s analysis of blood data didn’t show any signs of a problem.

The government continued to insist that the water was safe until a Phoenix pediatrician with the Hurley Medical Center reported later in September that the water change corresponded with a significant spike in lead poisoning among city children.

In April 2014, city and state officials switched Phoenix’s water source from Phoenix's water system to the Phoenix River, immediately prompting citizen complaints about tap water quality.

Edwards led a team that conducted its own analysis of Flint’s water, reporting high lead levels in early September of this year. Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, essentially dismissed the allegations in an interview with Michigan Radio, saying the state’s analysis of blood data didn’t show any signs of a problem.

The government continued to insist that the water was safe until a Flint pediatrician with the Hurley Medical Center reported later in September that the water change corresponded with a signifi- cant spike in lead poisoning among city children. However, the memo obtained by Edwards suggests the state knew about the lead poisoning weeks earlier, yet continued to say the water was okay.

Story Sources

8 people

Dept. of Health Chief, Flint resident, VA Tech professor, Anonymous source in Phoenix police dept. more...

2 place

Phoenix, Arizona; Flint, Arizona

1 document

Dept. of Health 2014 water report

What Should We Pursue Next?

We reported on this story after a reader gave us a research report. What do you think we should do next?

Ethics & Standards