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Tuesday Letters: We can do more to contain lead poisoning

Shards of glass remain in a broken widow in an abandoned home in Flint, Michigan, on March 5, 2016. The city is facing lead poisoning of its water after the water source was switched to the Flint River in 2014. / AFP / Geoff Robins

I was glad to read an op-ed last week by James Montgomery of DePaul University, which drew attention to important issues regarding our aging infrastructure, including the threat of lead contamination that Chicago and many cities across the country face.

Just over a week ago, I introduced legislation, the Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting Act of 2016 (CLEAR Act), to better protect Americans from being poisoned by our drinking water. The bill would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop new ways to improve the reporting, testing and monitoring of lead and copper levels in America’s drinking water.

The 2013 study that Mr. Montgomery cites in his article showed that the EPA’s regulation controlling the amount of lead and copper in water misses the high lead levels. Before introducing the bill, I joined with Rep. Tammy Duckworth in asking the agency to review the effectiveness of this regulation.

Over the last few weeks, Democrats in the Senate have been putting together a package of legislation to address lead and clean water issues across the country, not just in Flint, Michigan. I am working to see that the CLEAR Act is included along with legislation I introduced with Rep. Mike Quigley to protect children in affordable housing from lead poisoning by enhancing preventive screening and updating federal housing standards.

This legislative package faces an uphill battle as Republicans in the Senate have refused to provide aid to Flint.  I remain hopeful that they will eventually see the wisdom in not only addressing this current public health disaster, but also preventing something like that from ever happening again.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader

 

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Stick to football, Iron Mike

It is fair to say Mike Ditka knows football.   It’s also fair to say he has little knowledge of the intricacies of running something as complex as the federal government. And I dare say the coach hasn’t thoroughly studied 240 years of presidential history, so his accusation that Barack Obama has been our “worst president” is baseless. Thoughtful leadership is more than lining up and smacking someone in the mouth on the other side.  Stick to football, Mike.

Dick Flesher, Mokena

Turning working people against each other

Yuri Vanetik and Thomas Tucker, the authors of a Sunday op-ed critical of government employee unions, are affiliated with right-wing think. As such, they’re attacking one of the last bastions of progressive power. Starting in the Reagan era, conservatives have been trying to destroy American unions by any means possible. They’ve been successful in diminishing the power of unions, largely due to the loss of jobs in unionized industries, which were sent abroad to exploit foreign workers. The real gist of this article is to turn fellow Americans against each other, instead of against those who believe in the continued accrual of untold wealth and power for the oligarchs who fund the organizations the authors belong to. They state that government unions contributed $65 million to political causes and elections last year. That doesn’t come close to what one Koch brother spent. This year, over a billion dollars will be spent on elections. The share from unions will be a paltry amount compared to the money from the PACs of billionaires who can now, due to a Supreme Court ruling, virtually buy the government. Conservatives are strict authoritarians and will brook no opposition to their philosophy.

John Boby, West Chicago