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Clock Continues To Tick On Flint's Drinking Water Crisis

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's how one of Flint resident has experienced the last couple of years. We have the story of a community leader who became an activist, Bishop Bernadel Jefferson of the Faith Deliverance Center Church. Her story starts in April, 2014.

BERNADEL JEFFERSON: I was at my daughter's house. And I said, get me a glass of water. And they ran the glass of water, and it was bubbly. They ran another glass of water, and it still was bubbly, kind of thick after they let it run for a while. I tried to pallet the water and I couldn't. It left a film coating in my mouth. And so I couldn't drink it. And that was in April.

And then in July, 2014, the Fourth of July to be exact, my daughter ran a pool of water for the kids to play with in the front yard. And my children, grandchildren got in the water and played all day. But when they got out, either their neck was broke out, their face was broke out, their stomach was broke out, or their arms were broke out. Each child that played in the water was broke out.

INSKEEP: I am curious. Here we are months after this has been a national story. Is everybody still drinking bottled water there?

JEFFERSON: Of course because the water is not drinkable. The water is not usable to cook. There are people still breaking out in their face, on their bodies from bathing in the water. But what do you do?

INSKEEP: You know, I'm remembering reading that many years ago, in the 1800s, very few people had running water. And people might bathe once a month. Do you feel like you're going back in time, like you're in some earlier era?

JEFFERSON: Yes. You know, we were in Washington in March for the hearings. And it was just like being in heaven. You could go turn the water, and you still think, can drink this water? Is this safe to drink? And oh, OK I'm not in Flint.

So I can drink the water. I can go run a hot tub of water and take a bath. I can go to the bathroom and brush my teeth with the water from the sink, the things that we take for granted everyday.

INSKEEP: What do you want the president to do for you?

JEFFERSON: I want the president to decree that this is a disaster. It is no longer a crisis, even though it is a man-made disaster. I mean, the crisis was, like, 18 months ago. Two years and a month later is not a crisis anymore.

INSKEEP: Well, Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, thanks very much.

JEFFERSON: You're so welcome.

INSKEEP: By the way, the federal government has declined to formally call this a major disaster in Flint, instead calling it a federal emergency. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.