Flint Resident Says She Still Has No Water Almost 2 Years Later
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Ever since the water crisis in Flint began, we've been checking in with Jeneyah McDonald. I first arrived at her house in February of last year. She was making dinner and trying to teach her boys to stay away from the water. They were 2 and 6 years old at the time.
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JENEYAH MCDONALD: I don't know any way to explain to a 6-year-old why can't take a bath anymore every day, why you can't help mommy wash the dishes anymore. So I told him it's poison, and that way he'll know I'm serious. Don't play with it even when I'm not looking. If this is poison, I better not touch it.
SHAPIRO: And Jeneyah McDonald joins us once again now from her home in Flint. Jeneyah, it's so good to talk to you again.
MCDONALD: Oh, it's always good to talk to you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Boy, it's been more than a year and a half since we first met. Are you still using bottled water for everything?
MCDONALD: Every day.
MCDONALD: Nothing has changed.
SHAPIRO: Nothing has changed.
SHAPIRO: Are you still, like, driving all over the city to pick it up day after day?
MCDONALD: We kind of, like, build up our supplies so we don't have to go daily. But definitely weekly, we are going.
SHAPIRO: And when I met you, you were using, like, those single-serving water bottles that people carry around. Do you at least have, like, bigger containers at this point?
MCDONALD: No, no, no, no, still only the single-serving bottles, not even a liter bottle, just the single-serving bottles by the case.
SHAPIRO: And you are still paying a monthly water bill for water that you're not using.
MCDONALD: A very expensive monthly water bill, absolutely.
SHAPIRO: How much is it on a typical month?
MCDONALD: Our water bill runs around 150 to 160 a month.
SHAPIRO: Wow. So how are you getting through this after more than a year and a half?
MCDONALD: Very painfully. It's not fun. It's a burden. It's a headache. It's very sad. You know, we live in a nation that can come up with the best ideas of iPhones and iPads, but we can't even figure out how to give people safe water.
SHAPIRO: Do you ever think, forget it; it's not worth the effort; I'm just going to use the tap water, consequences be what they may?
MCDONALD: Never, no. That's not an option for me. I will crack open single-serving waters forever if I have to. But that's not an option for me to use that tap water - not for me, not for my kids, no.
SHAPIRO: Now, what about your neighbors and friends in Flint? Have any of them just gotten exhausted of the struggle and said, to heck with it; I'm going to use the tap?
MCDONALD: No, no one is exhausted. As a matter of fact, we're so trained. The - co-workers, friends, some neighbors I talked to - when we leave out of the city of Flint, we're so trained; we don't even feel safe putting our tooth brush under a regular faucet.
SHAPIRO: Even when you leave Flint, you don't feel comfortable brushing your teeth with tap water just 'cause you're so trained.
MCDONALD: Absolutely. It's very nervous. It's like, OK, this - you're telling me this is safe, but I just don't feel safe.
SHAPIRO: You know, Jeneyah, when I first met you, you said one of your big fears was that the country would forget about Flint and stop paying attention. Do you feel that that's what's happened?
MCDONALD: A little. I feel like we were news for just a moment, enough for people to say what a shame but not enough for people to make a change.
SHAPIRO: How are your kids doing?
MCDONALD: They're healthy. I - you know, I am grateful and very blessed for their health. Josiah is still struggling with his disability, with autism. But I'm grateful that his words are coming. And we just take it one day at a time.
SHAPIRO: While you've got the ear of the country, is there anything you would like people to know?
MCDONALD: Yes. Please keep Flint in your prayers. I'm prayerful and hopeful that somewhere, someone out there can understand that we need new pipes. We need new pipes for every household here in Flint, Mich., not just main pipes, not just for businesses. The households with these small children in it - we need new pipes in order for us to feel safe and to have comfort in knowing that our water is drinkable.
SHAPIRO: Jeneyah McDonald, thank you for talking to us once again. We're going to keep in touch, OK?
MCDONALD: Thank you, Ari.
(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE AND CHRIS ELDRIDGE'S "BONE COLLECTOR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.