Water Health Educator
Issues USA: Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan Water Crisis:
By Sarah White
Flint, Michigan is where the crisis all started. Flint was discovered in 1819 as a trading post, just 60 miles of Detroit. Flint is home to Buick Motor Company and General Motors. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, various plants began to relocate which left the once economically thriving Flint, to a shrinking economy and dwindling population.
In April of 2014, flint’s water supply was switched to the Karegnondi Water Authority from the Detroit water and sewerage Department. This was done to save money, but instead it caused years of issues. Flint is a city with 40% of it’s residents being black. Only a month later residents began to complain that the water supply looked and smelled strange. Government officials did nothing to address this issue and then in August of 2014, E. coli and coliform were found in their water source. Coliform is used as an indication to access the quality of both food and water.
The Environmental Protection Agency began to warn Flint about the levels of lead in the water; however, it was too late. The pipes had already been damaged and there was nothing more that could be done about lead leaking into resident’s water supply. The city switched back to its old water supply, but it was too late to change the damage that was already done to the pipes. President Obama declared a federal state of emergency due to this public health crisis. Government officials gave out free water bottles to the residents of flint but even after a year the residents were still using bottled water.
Within Flint, 30,000 lead pipes had to be replaced before the water was safe again to use. According to the World Health Organization “Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.” This all began between June 2012 and April 2013 when officials of Flint wanted to see what it could do to potentially save millions of dollars. The alternative that officials looked at was Flint building its own pipeline that would connect to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). In return over 25 years, $200 million dollars would be saved. Initially when the switch was made, government officials did not treat the river to ensure corrosion did not happen, they wanted to “wait it out and see.”
Flint Crisis: What is being done?
By Sarah White
Since 2014, this crisis has now been going on for 5 years now. In June of 2015, the first lawsuit was filed in hopes to return to Detroit drinking instead of Flint. The lawsuit lays out all of the violations and health warnings which are associated. By September of 2015, a pediatrician with Hurley medical Center announced a study that showed the number of children with elevated blood levels doubled after the city switch its water source.
Governor Snyder signed a bill in October of 2015 which would allow $9.35 million to help Flint with this water crisis. The water supply is switched back to Detroit water but residents are warned it could take weeks to properly get lead out of the system. Residents filed a class action lawsuit against 14 city and state officials, which stated they knowingly exposed their residents to toxic water. In the beginning of 2016, Flit is hit with a another federal lawsuit stating the violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act. Criminal charges against three government employees were filed. A class action lawsuit against the EPA was filed by five hundred and fourteen residents. In 2017, the EPA awarded $100 million for upgrades and a federal judge approved a $97 million settlement.
It was not until April of 2018, that the free bottle water program came to an end. The governor announced that the water quality was restored. In an announcement that was released February 6, 2019 “We’ll have to wait until at least May before we’ll know whether or not Michigan’s former state health department director will stand trial in connection to the Flint water crisis.” The former health department director, Nick Lyon, is facing involuntary manslaughter along with other charges. In regards to the quality of the water, the latest tests show that there is a decline in lead levels. Even though the level of lead contamination in the water is declining, residents are still skeptical about drinking the water even with a filter.