The need for water is universal—we use it to drink, cook, bathe, clean, and we even use it recreationally. How much we depend on access to a clean, healthy supply can easily be taken for granted. For over two years, the residents of Flint, Michigan have lived in a state of concern and distrust over the water supply so essential to their own lives. As a result of politics and cost-cutting during pipeline construction to Lake Huron, the city switched its main source of water to the Flint River.
The Flint River is far from the healthy ideal, contaminated by bacteria and other harmful, toxic elements, but it was cost effective at that time when the state’s water supply fund was at a multi-million dollar deficit back in 2011, according to CNN.
Opportunities to redirect back to Lake Huron were dismissed due to the city’s cost concerns. Despite residents’ health worries, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tests that found harmful amounts of lead in the water of a Flint family’s home, and a vote by the City Council to disconnect from the Flint River, the state’s emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose, vetoed a decision to redirect to Lake Huron.
CNN also reported that a class action lawsuit determined that Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) neglected to supplement Flint’s water supply with the anti-corrosive solution needed to protect the water from the elevated lead levels released from the pipes.
Lead poisoning is no joke—it can cause serious damage mentally and physically, especially to children because they are still developing. It can usually present itself through headaches, cramping in the abdomen, trouble sleeping, anemia, and memory loss, among many other symptoms. This presence of lead has been linked to illnesses and health complications among Flint’s entire population, including the resurfacing of Legionnaires’ Disease in 87 instances, resulting in 10 deaths. Although there are treatments for lead poisoning, its effects cannot be cured.
After studies performed by Virginia Tech concluded the hazardous nature of Flint’s water last September, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services mobilized to further investigate and test the drinking water in schools. In October 2015, Governor Rick Snyder declared the discontinuation of the Flint River as a source and signed a bill to this effect. Presently, the water supply funnels from Lake Huron once again. Governor Snyder declared a state of emergency; President Barack Obama soon did the same and made federal aid available to assist in efforts to combat the effects of the contamination.
In April, Snyder agreed to drink Flint’s water over the course of 30 days as a show of good faith that Flint’s tap water is now drinkable. On May 4th, President Obama made the trip to Flint and followed suit by publicly drinking a glass of water, advising that the use of a filter can make this water drinkable and convenient.
Three men have been criminally charged with “misconduct, neglect of duty, and conspiracy to tamper with evidence…[and] violating Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act”: Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby of Michigan’s water quality section of the MDEQ, and Michael Glasgow, Flint’s water quality supervisor.
The goal now is to regain the public’s trust.
By Aura Altamiranda