Environment / Health / News

Some in Buffalo keeping an eye on Flint water crisis

Joseph Kasko

(Buffalo, N.Y.) – People in western New York, and across the country, have been watching the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan and many have wondered could that happen in the Buffalo Niagara region.

It’s a natural question after the water in Flint has been found to contain high levels of lead, which makes it unsafe for drinking, cooking or bathing.

T.J. Pignataro, environmental reporter for the Buffalo News, told the Buffalo Review about his recent trip to Flint to cover the crisis.

A number of groups in Buffalo, including local churches and students at Buffalo State, have collected thousands of bottles of water to donate to the people of Flint.

In a recent op-ed in the Buffalo News, Earl Jann, the chairman of the Erie County Water Authority, wrote: “This could never happen here (in Buffalo) and it never should have happened in Flint.”

Jann stated it couldn’t happen because the water in Erie County, which is sourced from Lake Erie and the Niagara River, is tested 1,500 times per month. He said officials in Flint failed to test their water as often as required by law, which helped to contribute to the crisis.

“Never say never,” said John Nowak, a member of the group Citizens United for a Clean Lackawanna Waterfront. “Always be cautious and do whatever we have to do to limit those risks.”

Nowak appeared on the Buffalo Review to discuss his concerns about the waterfront.

Nowak said his group is concerned about pollutants and chemicals at the former Bethlehem Steel Plant site along the Lackawanna waterfront.

He said the site is just 140 feet from Smokes Creek, which feeds into Lake Erie.

Dr. Melinda Cameron, a pediatrician and the director Western New York Lead Prevention and Resource Center, said water is typically not the cause when children in Buffalo test positive for elevated levels of lead.

Rather, she said, lead poisoning in western New York comes from paint chips and dust that can be found in some of the older homes in the area.

Cameron appeared on the Buffalo Review to address concerns about lead poisoning in the Buffalo area.

* Producer Kerriann Salmon contributed to this report.


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