Flint Water Crisis by Jey Riggs
Flint, Michigan is the largest city in Genesee County and is located along the Flint River, which is 66 miles north of Detroit. It has a population of almost 100,000 as of 2013. Of these 100,000 residents, 41.2% live below poverty, the median household income is $24,862, and 56.6% are African American.
The city used to be home to General Motors, or GM, in the 1980s, before GM downsized. This caused the economic decline. By 2011, Flint’s finances were taken over by the state of Michigan, because the city was $25 million in debt; their water supply was $9 million in debt.
In 2014, Flint’s water supply was switched to the Flint River as a quick substitute water source for two-years while the pipeline connecting to Flint to Lake Huron was being built. This wasn’t the first time Flint had used the Flint RIver as a water source. It was actually the primary water source until Flint switched to Lake Huron in 1967.
The Flint River has been known to be nasty, only getting more disgusting in the 70’s. There was fecal coliform bacteria, low dissolved oxygen, plant nutrients, oils, and toxic substances. In 2001, Michigan ordered 134 polluted sites to be cleaned up and monitored in the river. The state Department of Environmental Quality was not treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of federal law. According to a study from Virginia Tech the river water was found to be 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit, which was from Lake Huron. SInce the water wasn’t treated properly, lead contaminated the water from aging home’s pipelines once the city tapped back into the river as its main water source.
There are several health effects of lead exposure. In children, puberty can be delayed, behavioral disorders, hearing problems, and impaired cognition. It can reduce fetal growth in pregnant women. Lead can affect anyone by harming the heart, kidneys, and nerves.
To think this all started because a city was broke. Now, they’ve been stuck with the same contaminated water for the past three years and nothing is being done about it, at least not fast enough. In fact, citizens started to complain about the water not long after the switch to the Flint River was made, but the government officials denied that there was any problem. They stated that the water had a bad smell and was discolored. The new water was 70 percent harder than the original source. Then, a study found an increased lead level in children’s blood, but the Department of Health and Human Services claimed it was a seasonal change, not lead in the water. It wasn’t until January 2016 that Obama and Rick Syder (governor of MIchigan) declare state of emergency in Genesee County due to Flint’s water. Obama stated that federal funding would cover the cost of providing clean water and water filters. April 12 came and Flint’s water was still considered unsafe, despite the filters. The lead level was still too high. From April 20 to July 29, several lawsuits and cases were filed against the officials in Flint for letting this go on for so long.
Since government officials weren’t doing anything despite being perfectly aware of what was going on, residents began to protest. They made signs and came together to make their voices heard. People hold signs that say things such as “Water is a human right” and “Don’t poison our kids”. This got the attention of several other people all over the world. People feel for Flint and want to do what they can to help. Online petitions have been created in an attempt to grab the government’s attention about the crisis.
It’s now 2017. Flint still doesn’t have clean water. However, in a recent test, the lead levels have decreased. Despite this, they’re still below federal limits and it’s recommended for residents to continue to use filters. Governor Rick Synder said that he’s committed to continuing to help the people of Flint recover and restore their city once again. Hopefully, Flint will be able to have clean water soon.
Flint’s water compared to Detroit’s water.
People gather together to protest against Flint’s toxic water.
Protesters come together to get Flint the clean water it deserves.