Jackson, Mississippi, and Flint, Michigan (CNN)Six-year-old Charles Wilson V is frightened to portion retired of the h2o fountain astatine his school.
"I volition die," helium says matter-of-factly erstwhile asked the crushed why.
It's a fearfulness his begetter agrees with. At location successful Jackson, Mississippi, Charles Wilson III -- who mislaid his archetypal namesake lad erstwhile helium was conscionable a babe -- gets bottled h2o for his household to drink, and helium boils h2o for everything else.
The water is backmost connected successful Jackson aft historical flooding took retired the h2o attraction works wherever pumps were already failing, but the Wilson household has mislaid faith.
"We've been crying astir our h2o for a agelong time," said the older Wilson.
Nearly a twelvemonth earlier the headline-grabbing shutdown, Wilson and hundreds of different residents sued the metropolis saying pb successful the h2o was silently poisoning their children.
The city's h2o strategy successful aboriginal 2020 failed an Environmental Protection Agency inspection, which recovered the drinking h2o had the imaginable to beryllium big to harmful bacteria oregon parasites.
Residents were without h2o for a period erstwhile pipes froze and burst during a 2021 wintertime storm. And the boil-water advisory remains successful effect.
Wilson blames contamination for immoderate of his son's world and developmental issues.
"We've been told that there's tiny amounts of lead. We've been told that it is nary problem. There's nary large thing," helium said, though the federal modular is that determination is nary harmless level of lead successful drinking water.
So adjacent erstwhile the metropolis says the h2o coming from his faucet is harmless to drink, helium volition not instrumentality that chance.
And he's close not to trust, accidental residents of Flint, Michigan, wherever a cost-saving alteration of proviso successful 2014 led to a h2o situation that is inactive ongoing.
"I'll ne'er portion the h2o again," said Audra Bell.
"The occupation for kids particularly is they are processing and they are growing. You don't cognize the effects that the pb poison that they experienced contiguous is going to person connected them successful 5 years, 10 years, 20 years," she said. "It's each similar having a perchance walking clip bomb."
Bell and her hubby Floyd person been raising their grandson, Matthew, since his parent died erstwhile helium was young. High levels of pb were recovered successful him erstwhile helium was conscionable a baby.
Lead depletion tin impact the heart, kidneys and nerves. For children, the wellness effects tin see impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, and adjacent proceeding problems.
Now 7 years old, the Bells are seeing Matthew conflict successful 2nd grade, mirroring immoderate of the aforesaid issues of small Charles successful Jackson.
Matthew, similar Charles, is kind, inquisitive, and energetic. But keeping his attraction tin look intolerable astatine times arsenic good arsenic being capable to recognize things that travel to different students easily.
The Bells cognize you can't simply flush pb retired of your strategy with cleanable h2o but they are doing what they tin to not marque thing worse.
Even with caller pipes and a antithetic h2o source, the Bells don't spot what comes retired of their pat and bargain astir 10 cases of bottled h2o a week for cooking, brushing teeth, making java and for them and their dogs to drink.
Their neighbour LeeAnne Walters says she does the same.
"I don't portion that water. We don't brushwood our teeth with that water. We don't navigator with that water. We ne'er volition due to the fact that they person done thing to amusement america that everything's OK," she said.
She and her children inactive get the rashes that archetypal appeared erstwhile the h2o went bad, she says, and overmuch other besides.
"My children person had gone done extended therapy for hand-eye coordination issues and code impairments due to the fact that of what's happened," she said.
"They person panic attacks if they spell to the dentist and the dentist tries to springiness them h2o from a pat -- everything has to beryllium bottled."
Walters rallied her assemblage and testified to Congress astir Flint's problems. And she doesn't deliberation determination has been justness oregon restoration yet.
Audra Bell echoes that with her proposal to Jackson residents: "Just bash the champion that you tin and support your household safe."
Legal enactment was taken successful Flint and lawyer Corey Stern helped triumph a $626 cardinal colony for Flint children from the city, the authorities and backstage h2o companies for their relation successful the crisis.
And that punishment could propulsion politicians to bash the close thing, helium suggests. "There are 626 cardinal reasons wherefore Jackson needs to bash the close thing," helium said.
But helium accepts that a deficiency of wealth to commencement with was besides key.
"Like Flint, Jackson is an impoverished community, chiefly minority, not a ton of section concern successful infrastructure from the authorities done nary one's fault," helium said. "And truthful conscionable similar Flint, if you cannot spend connected the beforehand extremity to bash things right, you're ne'er going to beryllium capable to spend to hole it connected the backmost end."
He called connected federal, authorities and section politicians not to absorption connected what was casual oregon fashionable but to inquire themselves what they would request to bash if their ain children were surviving successful the toughest, astir impoverished parts of their assemblage and spell from there.
Michael Regan, the caller caput of the Environmental Protection Agency, acknowledges the agelong past that leads to abrupt crises.
"There has been a quality successful deficiency of concern to h2o infrastructure successful this state for decades, but particularly successful our Black and brownish communities. It's imperative that we close this long-standing issue," helium told CNN portion successful Jackson this week.
He besides wants to look forward. "We didn't get into this concern overnight," helium said of Jackson, adding determination was nary speedy fix. "But we're moving astir the timepiece arsenic rapidly arsenic imaginable to supply immoderate stableness to the system."
He pointed to the caller Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and hoped concern would rebuild spot arsenic good arsenic pipes and pumps.
Maura Allaire, an adjunct prof of Water Economics and Policy astatine the University of California, Irvine, said the caller national wealth was overmuch needed but would not beryllium capable to screen the afloat concern gap.
And much radical are astatine hazard than the residents of Flint and Jackson, she said.
"The bully quality is that the immense bulk of h2o systems bash present harmless drinking water, truthful the bulk of the US colonisation does person reliable h2o supply," she said.
"The occupation is astir 7% oregon 8% of h2o utilities each and each twelvemonth autumn down and bash not conscionable nationalist EPA standards and this equates to 21 cardinal Americans not receiving h2o that is up to standard."
And if h2o -- indispensable to beingness -- becomes tainted, the effects dispersed acold and fast.
"It makes america sick, my kids sick," said Mirambi Ford, a parent of five, successful Jackson. "My small one-year-old, I don't adjacent cognize what to bash due to the fact that helium can't adjacent talk. So, each helium does is outcry and there's thing I tin do."
Ford was raised successful Jackson, has household each astir and wants to stay. But that whitethorn not beryllium possible.
"I'll ne'er springiness up connected my kids," she said. "I'm trying my champion not to springiness up connected Jackson, but it seems to the constituent wherever it's getting unbearable."
Charles Wilson has nary volition of giving up connected his kid either. When helium was a babe Wilson says helium paced the halls reasoning of ways to support his namesake. He is determined to assistance this lad unrecorded his champion beingness adjacent if authorities officials person failed them.
"What if it was your child, your household who had nary harmless water?" helium wants to inquire of the leaders.
But it's his kid and helium volition look retired for him.
With the schools backmost unfastened successful Jackson, helium sends his lad disconnected to learn. With bottled h2o successful his publication bag.
CNN's Theresa Waldrop contributed to this story.