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UPDATED: December 18, 2015 11:15 AM EST 

Marc A. Edwards, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, and LeAnne Walters, a resident of Flint, MI, joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to discuss the man-made natural disaster that has caused the city’s mayor to issue a state of emergency.

According to Edwards, the water in Flint was being contaminated with lead nearly 20 months ago.

Edwards told Roland Martin, “Federal law requires that you do something called corrosion control – you adjust the chemistry and pH of the water so it doesn’t leach lead from the pipes into water, instead it keeps lead on the pipes and out of the water.”

He added, “This is federal law. It is required to have this program and they either forgot or decided they were not going to have it. So people in Flint have been unprotected from lead in water for about 20 months.”

Edwards also explained it is unknown exactly when the water in Flint became toxic, “but we know as of January 2015, lead levels were too high and they were rising before that time and it was a dangerous situation for people in Flint for at least that long.”

LeAnne Walters told Martin the people of the community still “may not realize their water is still that bad even though they switched back” to Detroit’s water supply.

She explained, “You can’t boil it out. You have to buy water, or people who can’t afford it are forced to drink the water.”

Walters told Martin, “Back in October, they started giving out lead-reducing filters free of charge to the citizens, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that you’re washing your dishes in it, you’re bathing your children in it — you don’t have a choice.”

Edwards later added the residents of Flint pay the highest water tax in the United States at “$200 a month.”

Watch Roland Martin, Professor Marc A. Edwards, LeAnne Walters, and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the state of emergency in Flint, MI in the video clip above.

Officials in Flint, Michigan have declared a state of emergency due to the quality of the city’s drinking water.

According to NBC News, “Tests have shown elevated lead levels in the blood of some local children: prompting the Mayor of Flint, MI to declare the state of emergency to pave the way for possible government disaster aid.”

On Thursday, Roland Martin and the NewsOne Now panel discussed the shocking developments in Flint, MI, the overwhelming health concerns, and looming legal litigation that may result from the man-made disaster.

NewsOne Now panelist A. Scott Bolden told Martin, “This is a huge issue, there’s radon issues in the rivers of Illinois as well — that mid-west corridor seems to be a real problem.”

Before the lawsuits start flying, Bolden said, “The first step is to get these kids tested, including the adults tested — because you know the kids — if you have lead poisoning, that leads to learning disabilities and other challenges.”

“Secondly, the federal and state government have to kick in not only in testing the kids, but also set up a fund so that if there are damages and lawsuits — and I promise you the plaintiff lawyers are on their way to Flint, MI right now and there will be major lawsuits about this so long as they can show damages and injuries as opposed to projecting this out.”

Angela Peoples, Co-Director of GetEQUAL, believes this disaster is result of “city managers taking over in a way that is not accountable.” She also believes the environmental crisis in Flint is representative of the “legacy of Gov. [Rick] Snyder.”

Watch Martin and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the water crisis in Flint, MI in the video clip above.

TV One’s NewsOne Now has moved to 7 A.M. ET, be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

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