Hilbert Morales, M.P.H., M.Sc. / EL OBSERVADOR

Especially for developing infants & youth

As a chemist, I know that lead, mercury, and arsenic are toxic elements which, when ingested at very low ‘legal’ levels, over time accumulate in one’s body eventually causing nerve damage or physiologic toxicity. I wonder today if our local water districts need to make an effort to test all water sources for the current levels of these elements which are all enzymatic reaction inhibitors.

This drought has caused depletion of our normal safe sources of potable water. Alternative water sources are being used. Now that ‘el niño’ rains are upon our region, there is an effort to capture surface waters. Understand that rain water leaches trace amounts of all minerals from rocks and soils. All of us need to know that we are now ingesting very small amounts of lead (or mercury and arsenic), which over time, become accumulated in our individual bodies (especially growing infants and children) with the result that neurological and developmental impairments happen. The most economic effective way to prevent this from happening in our Silicon Valley communities is to continually monitor (test) the waters we imbibe to establish the levels of these three elements using approved standard ‘water chemistry’ methods.

I ask that EO’s readers become informed; that each reads what happened inauspiciously to the drinking water of Flint Michigan when potable water source were changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River to reduce operating costs:

Now Flint, Michigan is bankrupt. Its administration was taken over by the State of Michigan. It’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder and his appointees made some decisions 30 months ago which are having harmful public health impact on the residents of Flint, Michigan, especially its 6,000 children. Usually, Flint residents are supplied potable water from Lake Huron which are processed by Detroit’s water treatment facility. That was done some two years ago. An alert pediatrician began to diagnose lead poisoning in her K-6 patients thereafter. Her efforts to alert the Snyder Administration officials were ignored. Today, some 26 months after switching to Flint River water, Governor Rich Snyder stated “I’m sorry and I will fix it.” (Source: MSNBC TV 215 News Report: “All “In With Chris Hayes” broadcast of 01.19.16).

Unfortunately, the ‘new’ Flint River water had different qualities (probably a higher acidity level designated as pH by chemists). This higher acidity level is thought to have stripped the protective layers of internal surfaces of original distribution system piping installed prior to 1976 using lead. This is the probable source of high lead levels being experienced by Flint residents.

“Its a disaster,” admitted Governor Snyder who is now asking FEMA (Federal

Emergency Management Agency) for assistance. President Obama has already endorsed declaring Flint’s situation a disaster to enable FEMA to provide up to $5 million in federal aid. Unfortunately, this type of disaster is not presently included in the current statutory authority of FEMA. Some $28 million will be required. Neither the city of Flint nor the State of Michigan have the resources ‘to fix’ this situation promptly. Updated legislation is needed to establish ‘statutory authority’ to act as well as to permit allocation of essential resources (time, expertise, and money).

Now according to Flint’s pediatrician ‘whistle-blower’ whose initial observations and alarming communications were ignored, all 6,000 children residing in Flint may have been extensively exposed to extraordinary high lead levels during the past 30 months (and counting). Lead poisoning, during a child’s developmental years, causes irreversible nerve, brain, and organ system damage resulting in decreased cognitive abilities (i.e., lower I.Q.). The immediate issue is to authorize and fund the assessment of each exposed child to establish the data base which defines the scope of challenges to be addressed. A few of these children have been irreversibly damaged and may become wards of society during their entire lives.

Of great interest to the County of Santa Clara is to authorize and initiate the continuous determination of actual levels of lead, mercury and arsenic in all waters all the time. SCVWD stores volumes of water in aquifers (Fern County & SCCo.), uses percolation ponds, recycles recovered water, delta water, & Hetch Hetchy water sources. Are we certain that no sources of lead, mercury, and arsenic exist in these various sources? We need to know now before any of our children (our futures) are exposed and perhaps harmed. It is cheaper to test now; to determine actual levels…rather than wait for our kids to be injured in any manner. They are the future of this Silicon Valley community. To obtain more information, just google “LEAD POISONING”. To take action, call your County Supervisor (408-299-5001).