Flint Michigan’s Water Crisis: Long Story, Short and How You Can Help
Have you heard about the lead poisoning situation in Flint, Michigan?
If not, here’s the long story, short:
~ Flint’s water was good.
~ The state government switched the city’s water source to a polluted river to save money.
~ Thousands of men, women, and children have been poisoned.
Here’s the long story, a little longer than short:
~ Residents of Flint used to get Detroit water piped in to them.
~ Due to the downturn in the auto industry, Flint’s economy has suffered greatly as of late. To save money, the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, and an Emergency Financial Manager he personally appointed to manage the city of Flint, decided to switch the city’s water source over to the Flint River in April of 2014, which is corrosive, containing chemicals leached from auto manufacturing plants over the years.
Want a visual? Here’s what a sink full of Flint River water looked like.
Photo courtesy of: Huffington Post
And here’s what a bottle of Flint water looked like depending on which faucet you drew it from. Appetizing, no? Bottoms-up!
Photo courtesy of Time Magazine
~ Immediately after the switch to river water, residents began complaining about the poor water quality. In turn, they were told that the water had been tested, and it was fine. They were also told to “Relax.”
~ Oddly enough, while Governor Snyder’s staff was telling Flint residents that there was nothing wrong with the quality of the water they were being provided and that they needed to “Relax”, Snyder’s staff was simultaneously shipping in cases of bottled water to a Flint state government building where state representatives worked, warning them to only drink the bottled water.
~ The corrosive chemical make up of the river has caused water pipes throughout the city, homes and public buildings alike, to leach lead into their tap water. Lead levels have often reached as high as 10 times the EPA limit. That’s higher than something labeled as toxic waste.
~ Eventually, after a number of vocal journalists, doctors, and residents started spreading the news of the poisoned water nationwide, Michigan government officials acknowledged that this lead leaching was occurring, yet they still encouraged residents to bathe in the water. They even specifically encouraged residents to bathe their babies in the brown, lead-contaminated water.
See the poster below?
Propaganda at it’s finest.
We’re talking babies here, people! Snyder’s staff was advising the people of Flint to continue to “Relax” and, while relaxing, bathe their babies in the relaxing brown, lead-poisoned water shown above.
Who does that?
How do they sleep at night?
Photo courtesy of: Huffington Post
~ During the course of this tragedy, several people have been critical in shedding light on the situation. One such person stands out, at least to me. A Flint pediatrician by the name of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was a strong voice in identifying the gravity of the situation. Dr. Attisha began conducting lead tests on her Flint patients long before anyone was willing to admit the river water was causing a problem. Throughout the course of her tests, she found very concerning lead levels in many of her young patients that were continuing to elevate over time. Despite being told by the government numerous times that she was mistaken, she persisted, and shared her findings with outside groups until finally external news sources began to investigate the story and uncover the travesty at hand.
~ In October 2015, a year and a half after residents were forced to use the polluted river water, the city’s water source was switched back to acceptable Detroit water, but the damage to the water lines had already been done, and the pipes continue, even today, to leach lead into the new, clean water.
This is what the inside of Flint resident’s pipes now look like due to the reaction to the Flint River water.
Tragically, the damage to Flint residents had already been done as well.
~ Over 9,000 kids have potentially been exposed to irreversible lead poisoning. What does that mean? Well, according to the World Health Organization, “Lead can seriously affect children’s cognitive and physical development, leading to issues from lower IQs and aggression problems, to anemia and kidney dysfunction.”
You have to ask yourself, how outraged would you feel if this damage had been done to your child?
~ Lead affects everyone from children to adults to pets. Cases of Legionnaire’s disease have skyrocketed in Flint, residents have developed never before experienced skin issues, and the list of new, foreign ailments goes on.
~ Meanwhile, the whole time they’ve been receiving unusable water, Flint residents have also been charged an average of $140 a month for that contaminated water that has done irreparable damage to them.
~ Flint is a relatively poor community. Roughly 41% of its residents live below the poverty line compared to 17% of the rest of the state. Which makes it even more unconscionable that, while continuing to pay for poisoned water, they’ve also had to go out and purchase bottled water.
~ Grade school students were asked to draw pictures of what this water crisis has meant to them.
Here’s a 5th grade girl’s depiction: bathing from a bowl of bottled water.
Another child also caught in the midst of this travesty somehow had the presence of mind to be grateful for the kindness of strangers. What a role model for us all.
~ Google, Coca-Cola and other concerned corporations, celebrities like Cher, Jimmy Fallon, and Madonna, as well as organizations like churches and the Girl Scouts have been shipping in cases upon cases of bottled water for Flint residents to use. Even concerned private citizens from miles around are trucking cases of water to the good people of Flint. For example, two brothers from the south side of Chicago drove a U-Haul up there packed to the brim with donated water because they felt so badly.
In communities far and wide, fire stations are collecting cases of bottled water to ship up to Flint. Here’s a Daily Herald article explaining the donation process in Chicago’s northwest suburban area.
~ And although Michigan’s Governor Snyder has finally, after almost two years, recently reached out for federal assistance, he still hasn’t begun fixing the corroded pipes throughout the city caused by his bad decision.
The good news is though that, during his recent State of the State address, he apologized to the people of Flint.
How magnanimous of him!
That, and a bottle of brown water, isn’t going to go very far, kind sir.
~ To top things off, new testing of lead levels from only a couple of days ago concluded with maddeningly ironic results.
The governor’s office has provided some residents with water filters and told the recipients that if they were to use them, their water would be suitable for drinking.
Except, that’s not necessarily true.
The federal alert level for lead is 15 parts per billion (ppb). The filters being distributed in Flint are meant to handle up to 150ppb. However, new test results just were released showing that water in many homes using filters tested over 150ppb, with the highest reading registering a shocking 4000ppb. That means that people who have received and are using the government-provided filters might still be unwittingly giving themselves lead poisoning because the filters are rendered useless at a certain level of toxicity. In other words, the residents were following what Governor Snyder’s people told them to do: using the filters, drinking the water, and poisoning themselves in the process.
Time Magazine did an in-depth article on this crisis. Click this LINK to read about it. The Washington Post has written on it also, major news programs have reported on it as well, but no amount of coverage is a substitute for action on the part of Governor Snyder’s office. They started the problem, and they must correct it.
~ Congress is still twiddling its useless thumbs trying to determine if there’s something they should do about the situation. They’re hearing testimony from everyone, except of course the people who count the most: Governor Snyder and his band of hand-picked Emergency Managers were not “officially” invited, on purpose, so he chose to stay home. He did however, say that if invited, he “may consider” going.
I kid you not.
~ No fresh bottled water is being distributed to Flint residents by Michigan’s Governor Snyder and his crew. The water they are getting is either purchased by them at the store, or received through donations, as I mentioned above.
So, is there anything that we, those of us who are watching this catastrophe unfold, can do to help? How can we give back?
Well, if you want to do something immediately, sign your name on this website demanding a fair investigation of this crisis. At the moment, the investigation is being conducted by Governor Snyder’s attorney friend. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking the results of the investigation may just be a little biased.
Maybe. Quite possibly, maybe.
By all means, donate water to whatever center is near you, whether it’s a police station, fire department, church, etc. that is gathering donations and hauling them up to the poisoned citizens of Flint.
You can also donate to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, which has been set up to help support the necessary medical care that Flint residents will require due to the physical and mental ramifications of lead poisoning, particularly children under five. The fund is endorsed by Dr. Attisha who was pivotal in sharing the news about the lead poisoning.
Here’s my final take-away.
Saving money is not bad.
Saving money is actually good, particularly when dealing with a cash-strapped community like Flint.
However, saving money has to be done in a responsible way.
Saving money by changing to a different water source that poisoned the city’s residents and, even today, two years after the switch, still not correcting the problem, is not only bad, it’s downright criminal.
P.S. And we haven’t even touched on the environmental ramifications of sustaining a community of 100,000 people on water from plastic bottles for months on end.