When we go through our day, there’s a necessity we use and at times don’t give much thought to. Waking up, we brush our teeth, take a shower, maybe have morning tea or coffee. All these activities require one important element: water. A substance we drink, bathe in and at times, take for granted.
The people of Flint, Michigan don’t have this option. They’ve been using water that’s poisonous. The nation is now paying attention, but the citizens of Flint have been suffering for some time.
The population in Flint is about 60 percent Black and 42 percent of the residents live below the poverty line. In 2011, the state took over the budget in Flint and the goal was to cut costs by any means necessary. For decades, Flint bought its water from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. In 2013, the Flint City Council voted to stop buying Detroit water and join the Karegnondi Water Authority, a new system that would pump water from Lake Huron. This system would not be complete for about two years. To save money, government officials chose used water from the Flint River.
This was a celebratory moment for the leaders of the city. In April 2014, the mayor at the time, Dayne Walling (D), toasted with glasses of the water, stating, “It’s a historic moment for the city of Flint to return to its roots and use our own river as our drinking water supply.”
This water coming from the river was to pump into the city’s water pant and be treated for distribution. Within weeks, complaints started from citizens that the water tasted bad, smelled and a number of residents saw brown water coming from faucets. The response from officials was that it was safe to drink. Months later, a boil water advisory was issued to residence.
In January 2015, the citizens were sent letters stating Flint’s water system was found in violation of a drinking water standard. The letter came after an issue of notice from the state Department of Environmental Quality. The notice was a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act for maximum contaminant levels of trihalomethanes (TTHM). This is a group of four chemicals formed as a byproduct of disinfecting water. Officials still claimed the water was safe to drink, but as the letter stated, “over many years it could cause liver, kidney, or central nervous system problems and an increased risk of cancer.”
The letter also warned infants, elderly and those with a “severely compromised immune system to seek advice about drinking water from their health care provider.” Throughout the year, citizens continued to suffer. It wasn’t until October 2015 that officials informed residents to stop drinking the water until it was checked for lead. A year earlier, General Motors stopped using the water at its car engine plant due to fear of corrosion.
Any resident of Flint that has been drinking the water since April 2014 has been exposed to lead and this is a public health issue among the citizens. In October last year the water supply switched back from the Flint River to Lake Huron, but the damage had been done to the citizens of Flint. There have been cover ups, resignations and a federal lawsuit. Federal Aid has made its way to Flint and there is an outpouring of support.
Last night, there were protestors outside of the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan as Governor Rick Snyder addressed the people of Flint in his State of the State Speech. “To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight as I have before, I am sorry and I will fix it.” Snyder is facing lawsuits, protests, and calls for his resignation.