On The Issue: Flint Water Crisis

City’s Water Source Contains High Lead Levels


Flint resident holds bottles filled with water from the contaminated source. Courtesy of Google Images.

Jaylin Paschal, Editor-in-Chief

The Flint, Michigan water crisis has dominated mass media airways and casual conversation. Many find it hard to believe that such a crisis could impact a city in a first world nation, as water is often a resource taken for granted in America. However, Flint residents have lived for months without water that is safe for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning.

When Michigan governor Rick Snyder was looking for ways to save the state money, he and his appointed officials made a decision that would ultimately harm the lives of thousands–and even end the lives of ten. The order was made to switch the city of Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River until a new supply-line to the lake was ready. The Flint River is notoriously filthy and has been polluted to the point of corrosiveness. In order for the water from the Flint River to be safe for use and consumption, it would have needed treatment with an anti-corrosive agent which would have cost the state of Michigan nearly $100 a day. Experts from CNN predict that this treatment could have prevented 90% of the issues that compose the current crisis. However, officials chose not to implement effective treatment, and soon after the source switch residents issued complaints of water that looked, smelled, and tasted strange.

The physical abnormalities were the least of the citizens’ problems. The corrosive water ate away at the city’s lead pipes, leading to lead poisoning among many Flint residents. Lead poisoning is linked to skin lesions hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Perhaps the most concerning effect of lead poisoning is that on young children. Lead exposure can affect a developing child’s IQ and result in learning disabilities.

In spite of the lead corroding into the water supply, state officials insisted it was safe. It was not until local pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha announced that the lead levels in toddlers had up to tripled in some parts of the city since the switch from Lake Huron, that the government formally acknowledged the issue.

A state of emergency has been issued. The state has been distributing free water filters to Flint residents, who have been relying on boiled or bottled water for everyday use. Residents of Flint continue to protest and demand clean water. Additionally, people from all over the country are speaking out, criticizing Snyder and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. Many have donated water bottles to the city and some have volunteered to distribute resources. Legal issues have also arisen, as class action law suits have been filed against Snyder, and the local, state, and federal governments. This outrage has also bled into the political arena. At the most recent Democratic debate, presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders called for Snyder’s resignation. His opponent, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has also condemned both the initial switch of water sources and the state’s slow response to crisis. “I think every single American should be outraged,” said Clinton. “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care.”

Clinton’s description of Flint checks out. The statistics show that 57% of Flint residents are African-American and 41% of residents live below the poverty line.

My own take on the matter is that sacrificing the health and safety of a group of people for money is not only greedy, but inhumane. Especially when this particular group of people has a populations that is mostly minority and heavily poor, therefore more vulnerable to corruption and foul play due to an unlikeliness or inability to take action. This pushes the issue beyond inhumane, as it becomes unconstitutional. It is a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause when the lives of thousands are put in jeopardy for political or monetary reasons. All decision-making officials–from those who chose to switch water sources, to those who decided not to treat with anti-corrosives, to those who shrugged off its deadly effects–should be held accountable.

That’s my stance on the issue. What’s your take? Share in the comments below.