The Flint water crisis in Michigan was all over the news this time last year. Celebrities and politicians came together to donate bottled water and distribute water filter kits. News pundits like Rachel Maddow broadcast live and held town halls. Investigative journalists from Michigan Radio and The Flint Journal-MLive, who began their award-winning coverage of the poisoned water in 2014, continued holding the powerful accountable.
Then around April of this year, Flint’s public health emergency became another forgotten crisis. The ratings generated by Flint reports trickled, and the TV live trucks moved on. Unfortunately, the city of Flint could not. They are still facing a deadly water crisis.
How Did It Happen?
The state of Michigan wanted to save money, and they created a new water authority that would get water from Lake Huron rather than Detroit. The source was expected to be ready in three years. But state officials couldn’t wait that long. They wanted the savings now. So the residents of Flint started getting their water from the Flint River.
Complaints immediately began to come in about the new water. The water was positive for E. coli bacteria, and the city issued a boil advisory. In the background, Flint’s General Motors plant told the city it couldn’t continue to use water from the river because it was rusting car parts. It was arranged for the plant to use a different water source.
The residents still had to drink the river water, and use it for bathing and cleaning.
Silence from Government Officials
The water was tested again after more complaints, and the city found high levels of disinfectant byproducts. This was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, but the State of Michigan said residents are fine if they are healthy.
Flint was not happy with this, and they hired a third-party consultant to investigate the water quality. That consultant agreed the water was safe to drink. Mind you, the water was discolored and had floating particles of sediment.
This past January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the State of Michigan that the river water was unsafe. It said pipes containing lead were contaminating the water. Several months after this revelation, around 12,000 children in Flint were discovered to have high levels of lead in their blood.
Too Little, Too Late for Flint?
Governor Rick Snyder (R-Michigan) announced the state’s commitment to buy water filters and test for lead in schools. A few days later, he also ordered Flint’s water system be switched back to Detroit.
Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan, and the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the scandal.
Scientists determined the already insurmountable disaster expands beyond lead. Legionnaires’ disease caused 10 deaths after Flint started to use the river water. This concerning development caused President Barack Obama to sign an emergency declaration and approve federal aid for the city.
When Will Lasting Help Come for Flint?
The public water pipes in Flint, Michigan still have not received the overhaul they desperately need. About 20,000 homes require their lead-laden water pipes replaced. The projection to complete both takes about 15 years and $1.5 billion.
Because of the size of this project, action has been slow to occur. Literally only a handful of houses have had their pipes replaced. They have a clean water source now, but due to the corrosion from the river water, the change doesn’t make a difference. And once all the pipes have been replaced, Flint won’t forget, because the effects of the dirty water will last forever in the health of its children.
Vets for Flint
On December 4th, the Army Corps of Engineers denied Standing Rock Pipeline in North Dakota. Protesters objected to its construction for months over clean water and Native American burial rights. Now, the 2,000 veterans who recently stepped in to give protesters a break will move to Flint and demand clean water.