Despite Tough Year, Flint Mother Stays Strong For Her Children

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Jeneyah McDonald looks over homework her oldest son Justice, 6, brought home from school while her youngest son Josiah, 2, drinks Kool-Aid from a bottle at their home in Flint, Mich., in February.

Jeneyah McDonald is tired of using bottled water for everything: drinking, cooking, bathing.

In order to keep her two children safe, the resident of Flint, Mich., told them the city tap water was poisonous.

"I don't know any way to explain to a 6-year-old why you can't take a bath anymore every day, why you can't help mommy wash the dishes anymore," McDonald said earlier this year. "So I told him it's poison. And that way, he'll know I'm serious — don't play with it."

It's been just over a year since the city declared a state of emergency over lead-contaminated water, and McDonald is still using bottled water for everything.

Most of the old pipes still have not been replaced, and the state has spent more than $200 million on bottled water and water filters. Congress approved $170 million in aid earlier this month, but city officials say they will likely need tens of millions of dollars to replace all of the lead pipes.

Even though a court order required the state and city government to pay for water delivery, McDonald tells NPR's Ari Shapiro she still has to pick up cases of water herself. She says her son keeps asking her when this will be over.

"I tell him I don't know," McDonald says. "I tell him — at least on two different occasions — when you see a bulldozer out front digging up our front yard and replacing pipes, you'll know that the water is almost safe again, but until you see that. ... I remember when this first started he thought it was fun. It's no longer fun."

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