We are now 1,605 days into the ongoing crisis with the water in Flint, Mich. The residents are being told that their tap water is below the federal threshold for lead contamination, but they still don’t feel safe drinking it. Bottled water distribution has been discontinued, since the state believes the water system to be better, and it is trying to convince the residents of that. The residents are being asked to trust and believe in their local and state government, but it understandably hard to do so—given that they have been lied to many times before.
This week, another bombshell dropped that would most definitely add to the distrust of city and state officials when it comes to the state of the water and the amount of lead in the blood of Flint’s most vulnerable population—its children, according to a report from MLive.
In the new Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 11/9—which opens in theaters around the country on Sept. 20, April Cook-Hawkins—a former Genesee County Health Department secretary—claims her former boss instructed her to falsify blood lead test results.
In the film, Moore explains that Cook-Hawkins asked to do this in order to help “cover up what the state was really up to” in Flint. Her boss told her to report every instance of elevated lead in blood as being 3.5 micrograms per deciliter—which is a threshold for exposure—even if the tests indicated lead exposure was higher than that.
As a result, many children with elevated levels of lead in their blood did not receive access to services that could have mitigated that lead exposure—all because the falsified test results caused their parents to not be notified and alerted to the high levels of lead.
Although Genesee County denies the allegations, Cook-Hawkins repeated her story during a Sept. 12 episode of All In With Chris Hayes that was recorded in Flint. She also told MLive/Flint Journal that all of her claims are supported by witnesses and documents and that she would share what she knows with Flint water investigators working for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Schuette’s office would not discuss Cook-Hawkins’ claims directly, but told MLive via email that the investigation into the Flint water crisis “is still open and we encourage anyone with information to contact us if they have information that would assist in that investigation.”
Cook-Hawkins believes the county falsified records because it didn’t have the capacity to arrange and manage services for the many children shown to have high levels of lead in their blood.
She said she refused to falsify data, but has been told but other employees that they did. She also declined to name the former boss who reportedly gave her the directive.
Genesee County released a statement that said “The allegations made by Ms. Cook-Hawkins are absolutely false. Our employees go into the public health field to help residents get the medical attention they need and deserve. To suggest that we would instruct our employees to falsify information in a way that would deny a child essential medical services during a health crisis is offensive and patently false.”
MLive/Flint Journal requested and reviewed a copy of Cook-Hawkins’s personnel file from the county and found that she was hired in December 2015 and resigned four months later.
Cook-Hawkins said she was forced to resign because she refused to falsify data. A handwritten note in her personnel file indicates she resigned “in lieu of termination,”
An April employee evaluation of Cook-Hawkins said “April should strive to pay close attention to important details in her work (eg. spreadsheet that is sent to MDHHS with elevated blood lead levels from the Health Department lab did not include all required information).”
It also criticized her “poor judgment in separating (health department) assignments and personal business.”
Whatever the reasons for her leaving the department, the fact remains that Cook-Hawkins stands behind her accusation and is willing to put it to whatever test necessary to prove it.
Another example of a hero who does not wear a cape.