WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is making the recent water debacle in Flint, Mich., a big part of her campaign, yet, the expert who sounded the alert on that problem told Congress that Washington, D.C., had a lead problem “20 to 30 times worse” when she was in the Senate.
And there is little evidence she did anything about it.
But there is evidence she has been aware of the ongoing water problem in the nation’s capital.
An email exposed by Wikileaks and forwarded by Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, on Dec. 12, 2012, warned: “Water in DC is NOT/NOT Potable.”
Washington’s own contaminated water crisis peaked in 2004, during the middle of Clinton’s tenure in the Senate, but the problem continues to this day.
Clinton served in the Senate from January 3, 2001, to January 21, 2009. She essentially lived in Washington from 1993 to 2013, as first lady, senator and secretary of state.
Virginia Tech environmental engineering professor Marc Edwards was credited with alerting the nation to the problem of lead-contaminated water in Flint. But he also testified before Congress in March that the long-term health impact of what happened in Washington could dwarf the problems in Flint.
Edwards was the co-author of a study that found the number of people exposed to lead-tainted water in Washington a decade ago was more than six times greater than the number of people affected in Flint, where 4 percent of children tested positive for lead poisoning in 2015.
Edwards also said lead levels in Washington’s water in the early 2000s were three times higher than those in Flint.
He found contamination levels in Washington were at their highest in 2004, as 6.5 times more people were exposed in the nation’s capital than would be in Flint, and for twice as long.
Speaking about Flint in January on MSNBC, Clinton said, “This is infuriating to me,” and, “I would be doing everything I could. And I would be expecting everyone in a position of authority to do the same.”
However, Edwards said the handling of the Washington problem by federal and local officials, when Clinton was serving in the nation’s capital as a senator, was “a nightmare.”
He told the Washington Post that government agencies “covered up” the city’s water crisis in the early 2000s.
Clinton apparently was aware there was a lead poisoning crisis in 2004.
But her response to the crisis seems to have been to write a letter.
When the Washington Post ran a story charging that cities across the United States were illegally manipulating lead testing results, then-Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., co-wrote a letter with then-Sen. James Jeffords, D-Vt., calling for an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency.
WND could not find any indication Clinton did anything else to help the nation’s capital deal with its own lead contamination problem.
Congress is responsible for running the District of Columbia, and, during the worst part of Washington’s water crisis, Clinton’s committee assignments certainly put her in a position to do something to help.
From 2001 to 2009 Sen. Clinton served on:
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water
- Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
- Subcommittee on Children and Families
- Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety
She did sponsor one bill calling for the reduction of lead-based paint in order to protect children, the “Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2008” (which did not become law.)
But there is no record of her introducing any legislation to deal with the water crisis in Washington that poisoned many more children than were eventually affected in Flint.
WND could not find any record of her even addressing the water crisis in the nation’s capital.
Edwards said he is still concerned about the estimated thousands of lead pipes carrying Washington’s water.
During the Democratic debate in Flint in March, Clinton did proclaim, “I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is.”
She also claimed during the debate, “We were making progress on this in the 1990s. I worked with then-Senator Obama to get more money, more support to do more to remove lead.”
However, Clinton’s memory seems foggy. President Obama was not a U.S. senator in the 1990s.
He served as a senator from Illinois from January 3, 2005, to November 16, 2008.
It’s not an isolated example of recent memory lapses by Clinton.
During a three-hour interview on July 2, she told the FBI she could not recall 39 times when asked about her private email server system used during her time as secretary of state.
A few days later, and after accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton explained she was highlighting the Flint problem, “Because it’s not just a detail if its your kid, if it’s your family, its a big deal.”
But she made no mention of the findings of Edward’s study on the lead poisoning of children in Washington during the time she was in office in the nation’s capital, or after.
The study found 42,000 children, in the womb or younger than two, were exposed to high levels of lead between 2000 and 2004, and warned they were at risk of health and behavioral problems in the future.
The Washington Post seemed to imply Clinton saw a benefit in using Flint as a racially tinged wedge issue when she devoted her entire closing statement to Flint during the presidential debate in January, in Charleston, S.C.
“I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what’s happening in Flint, Mich., and I think every single American should be outraged,” Clinton declared.
The Post said, “She grew angrier as she spoke, fairly spitting the words as she accused Gov. Rick Snyder of callously ignoring the problem because the victims aren’t politically influential.”
Clinton charged, “We’ve had a city in the United States of America, where the population, which is poor in many ways, and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water.”
“And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled,” she continued.
“I’ll tell you what,” Clinton said. “If the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.”
She also took credit, the Post reported, “for shaming Michigan’s Republican governor into action on behalf of the majority-black city, where mostly poor residents had been drinking and bathing in toxic water for more than a year.”
Clinton claimed, “I issued a statement about what we needed to do. And then I went on a TV show and I said it was outrageous that the governor hadn’t acted, and within two hours he had.”
However, when commenting on the Democratic convention in July, Michigan’s Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said, “Hillary Clinton was late to the game — she wasn’t what drove the process.”
“It was a very disappointing distortion — a flat-out lie, in fact — to suggest that Hillary Clinton bringing up Flint water was what caused the actions to be taken,” he added.
Calley said a video shown at the convention “had the timeline all messed up,” and that the problem was fixed by switching back to the Detroit water system “months before Hillary Clinton had ever said anything.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., also criticized the video, saying its suggestion that the state wasn’t aiding the city’s recovery was “a false narrative.”
During that March debate in Flint, Clinton also made a commitment she is unlikely to fill.
She vowed to remove all lead from all of America’s water. And more.
“I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is, because it’s not only in water systems. It’s also in soil, and it’s in lead paint that is found mostly in older homes,” said Clinton.
She added, “We will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere.” She made clear she meant from, “water, soil, and paint. We’re gonna get rid of it.”
However, throwing cold water on that notion was Prof. Edwards, who said, while the goal was “noble,” it was also not realistic.
“Unfortunately, achieving that goal is probably not financially feasible, especially in an era of declining discretionary budgetary resources,” Edwards said after Clinton made her comments.
He said it would cost “trillions” of dollars.
He did say they were plenty of low-cost treatments available to substantially reduce the nation’s lead problem, especially preventative measures.
Still, Clinton found a receptive audience for her multi-trillion dollar promise in Flint.
One other fact might make Clinton’s particular focus on Flint curious.
2014 data from the Center for Disease Control shows there are 288 counties in the country that have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint.
As a candidate, Clinton has, indeed, mentioned that many other American cities have problems with lead-contaminated water.
But as a lawmaker, WND could find no evidence that, as someone in a position of power in Washington, she ever addressed the crisis in her own backyard.