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Flint Resident Reacts To Charges In Water Crisis Case

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Flint, Mich., water crisis was national news for months and months. After years of lead leaching through tap water, at least 80 people fell ill and more than a dozen have died in the community. Today, Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud announced charges against Richard Snyder, the state's former governor. She also spoke to the loss Flint has experienced.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FADWA HAMMOUD: We may never know all the names of those who had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by this manmade crisis. And although the criminal justice system alone cannot remedy all the suffering that every person endured, we took our part seriously and we hope others will do the same to ensure that this never, ever happens again.

CHANG: One name we know well is Jeneyah McDonald, a Flint resident. Through the many conversations that she has had with us on this show, we have seen up close what living through this crisis has been like. Welcome back.

JENEYAH MCDONALD: Thank you.

CHANG: So, Jeneyah, when you first heard the news that former Governor Rick Snyder was getting charged with two misdemeanors in, quote, "failing to protect the health and safety of Flint's residents," just tell me, what went through your mind?

MCDONALD: Misdemeanors? That was the first thing that went through my mind is wow. I have friends who've lost their parents behind this, and we're talking misdemeanors? But it is what it is. It's unfortunate that they're not calling it what it is - straight-up murder.

CHANG: Do you feel that this step is any closer, though, to justice for Flint, for your community?

MCDONALD: Baby step - a very, very tiny baby step. Again, it's another spit in our face because of the community we are, that we could just take whatever you give to us instead of what's right.

CHANG: Well, I know that you had had to tell your two sons, Justice and Josiah, that the water coming out of your sink was basically poison. I know you did not drink from your faucet for years or even bathe with the tap water. Tell me, do you feel at all safe now drinking out of your taps?

MCDONALD: Never.

CHANG: Never.

MCDONALD: Never. Never. Not here in Flint, not ever. It won't - no.

CHANG: So are you still lugging water into your house all the time? I remember that you had told us that you used to have to do that literally...

MCDONALD: Yes.

CHANG: ...All the time.

MCDONALD: Yes.

CHANG: That is still happening.

MCDONALD: I'm weekly going to buy our weekly four cases of water, yes.

CHANG: Well, your sons were - I think they were 2 and 6 years old - right? - when we first met your family. That was nearly five years ago.

MCDONALD: Yes.

CHANG: Can you talk about - how is their health now?

MCDONALD: They're typically healthy, active children. But still - their physical health is fine; it's the developmental that is the issue. And my biggest concern is the long-term, even longer-term developmental that's going to probably arise.

CHANG: What kind of concerns developmentally are you worried about at this point?

MCDONALD: Well, currently, Josiah - he is autistic. I am still saying that that is a result of this water. And he is not a typically developing child with autism. So I have to make sure he has the resources available to him to make sure that he's hitting all his milestones that he needs.

CHANG: And what about Justice? How's he doing?

MCDONALD: The best thing is that Justice was older when this broke out. So I believe that his body had enough nutrients in it so that the lead didn't affect him as severely as Josiah. So we're not seeing the delays that we see in Justice - I mean, in Josiah. So Justice is doing well.

CHANG: Well, I am wondering if today's news restores any faith whatsoever in your state's government. You said it seemed like that they were baby steps. But how do you feel going forward towards your state government?

MCDONALD: At least they're doing something.

CHANG: Yeah.

MCDONALD: It's been a very long process, and I can't look past - at least they're doing something. At least that...

CHANG: Yeah.

MCDONALD: Finally, Rick Snyder's name has been attached to something.

CHANG: All right. Jeneyah McDonald of Flint, Mich., thank you so much.

MCDONALD: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.